November 29, 2013

Annual-community feast draws diners near and far


PLATTSBURGH — Pumpkin pie, his favorite, was among the remains before Fred Christman Thursday afternoon in the Elks Lodge 621 in Plattsburgh.

The Saranac resident drove to the city to attend the Salvation Army Thanksgiving Meal with his two sons, Kimarley and Alex.

Christman grew up in Morrisonville and has holiday memories of lots of relatives eating a lot of food around a big table. 

Asked what he is thankful for, Christman said, “That I’m still alive.”

Christman and his sons were among more than 200 diners who attended the annual community feast.

The event was months in the making and spearheaded by Envoys Frank and Sue Smith of the Salvation Army Plattsburgh Corps.

“We have some groups that have been generous throughout the years,” Mrs. Smith said. “The National Turkey Federation, each year they donate the turkey and the ham. Pepsi and Hood donate drinks. Pray’s Farmers Market and Doucette (Potato Farm), they donate vegetables. Rambach’s donates baked goods. We just have wonderful community support throughout the year, and the Elks have been wonderful. This is our fourth year collaborating with them. This is a beautiful location. The dining room is just absolutely gorgeous out here.”

Diners glanced out at sunny views of the lake as they ate ham, turkey, corn, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce and rolls while leaving room for dessert.

“We have so many volunteers, church groups and families that come out together,” Mrs. Smith said. “The community is so wonderful to support this. Most of the time, we have so many volunteers we don’t know what to do with them. They just come and pitch in and serve the desserts and drinks. It’s great for the people in the community because some don’t have families and friends close by and they come. Some, there are only one or two in their family, and they don’t want to fix a big meal. They come and share with family and friends around the table or they meet people. It’s just a wonderful opportunity for people to get to know each other. We love this community. They’re very supportive.”

The lodge doors opened at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

“Even with all the food we serve them, we have appetizers,” Mrs. Smith said. “They can just sit there and talk for a little bit before we actually serve. We serve from noon to 3 p.m.”

Just after 1 p.m., foot traffic had dwindled.

“Every year, it’s a different number,” Mrs. Smith said. “We have a few more hours to go.”

Volunteers included Elizabeth Cornish-Dukes and Kayla Phinney.

“My grandmother (Marge Minckler) is the cook,” Cornish-Dukes said, adding when asked why she and her friend volunteer, “Because it makes us feel good about ourselves helping the community and helping the people who don’t have family and stuff.”

“I think people need help, and they need food,” Phinney said.

Elks (past) Exalted Ruler Marvin Benton greeted people in the lobby.

“It’s always great to see this many people,” Benton said. “What I love to see, like these young ladies right here, the younger generation here to support it and volunteer. Past years when we were first starting, a lot of the older seniors had to help. Last year and this year, a lot of young adults volunteer. I love to see it. Like one of them just said, ‘to give back to the community.’ I just love to see the younger generation stepping up. They are. We have more volunteers today than we’ve ever had. It’s a good thing to see this many people being fed. It’s a good meal, for sure, and plenty of dessert. I love to see the Elks doing this for the community. We’ve got a beautiful place here, a beautiful building. We have everything they need here. I’m glad they use our lodge.”

Minckler ate the fruit of her labor before the meal service started. She did the squash last Tuesday and the stuffing last Thursday and froze them.

“Yesterday I did sweet potatoes, and we peeled 250 pounds of potatoes,” Minckler said. “Then my job 5 o’clock this morning was getting everything set up. The Elks Club does the turkey and ham. The chef here cooks them on the day before. Rambach’s, Hannaford’s and Price Chopper gave us lots of desserts. I love it. I’ve done it four years. I like it.”

Tony and May Eelman were among the third wave of diners partaking of the meal.

“Because we don’t have family,” Mrs. Eelman said. “He would rather stay at home. He’s not feeling good. But he’s appeasing me today. We’ll get through it. We come here. It’s a friendly atmosphere. You’re always welcome. The food is delicious.”

Email Robin