WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - It was a very busy Thanksgiving at the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla, where more than 300 volunteers came together to serve no less than 1,700 plates to members of the community.
At first glance, the dinner seems like a place where those who can’t don’t have another Thanksgiving dinner to go to can come get a hot meal. However, once you start listening to the people who attended, you'll realize it’s a whole lot more.
Sean Riley volunteered last year and did it again this year. He describes the meal as more than a dinner.
“We’re gathered here to have a family feast,” Riley said, “and the family is the whole community of the valley.”
Not only were people given heaping plates with all the trimmings, in the window of the kitchen, there were boxes being filled for people to take home as well.
Many of the volunteers were young people, who had a lot to say about helping out in their community.
“There’s a lot of people in the community who don’t have places to go,” said Ivana Ingle. “Not even just that: some people’s families are just a ways away here in Alaska.”
“I think that it’s really cool that I have a chance to do it,” said Elijah Loudon about volunteering, “and I’m happy to do it because I have what I need and I want to help others to have what they need.”
Even Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy stopped by to help dish out some of the Thanksgiving plates. He said came to the center after helping out at Bean's Cafe in Anchorage earlier in the morning.
“I really think people care here. This is a perfect example of people in Alaska caring for other Alaskans,” Dunleavy said. “There’s a lot of volunteers here, and this is what Thanksgiving is all about. So it’s an honor for me to be here for a little while and help out as well.”
While all these people of the Valley came together, there were plenty of things they were thankful for this year.
“Particularly, I’m thankful for my mom,” Riley said. “She’s 93 and still living independently and is quicker than most 30-year-olds.”
“I’m thankful for my family and my wife getting her associates degree in accounting,” said Joshua Mongar.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to volunteer, my job, a roof over my head, and everything I have,” said Ryan Jensen.
Some people were thought simpler with what they were thankful for like Michael Tidwell.
“Still breathing,” he said, followed by a chuckle.
To sum up what this dinner was all about, Elijah Loudon puts it pretty well.
“I think it’s nice to not just be with those people that you already know,” he said, “but it’s nice to kind of open up and talk to other people and hear their stories. Sometimes you hear some really amazing things.”
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