Community groups prepare for more people for Thanksgiving meals - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Community groups prepare for more people for Thanksgiving meals

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By Julia Bruck - bioemail

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (KFVS) - In southern Illinois the tough economy means community groups are putting more turkeys in the oven this year.  On Monday volunteers started to prepare thanksgiving dinners in Herrin and Carbondale.

Organizers with both groups say donations from the community have kept up with the need. But the need translates into some big numbers. In Herrin, more than 1,200 people are expected for Thanksgiving. While in Carbondale volunteers are preparing to feed about 1,000 people.

Thanksgiving is still days away. But volunteer Terri Walker already put on her chef's hat.

"It's the official start to the meal," Walker said.  

The meal is served up each year at the Herrin Civic Center. But Walker and others prepare the most important part here in Herrin High School's kitchen.

"We quarter each onion up and half goes inside each turkey," Walker said.  

To feed more than 1,200 people is no small task. Walker says it takes many ovens across town to cook up some 80 turkeys, which is more than last year.

"We cook some birds at Chucks Barbeque. We cook some birds up at the Elks," Walker said.  

"What's your job today?" Heartland News asked. "To not ask questions, sit here and break bread," Volunteer Jerry Bires said.

Bires rips up bread to fill 16 pans of stuffing, which is just one of the many sides that will be served up at the Newman Catholic Center's Thanksgiving meal.

In the kitchen, JP Dunn cuts apples to fill some 30 pies. Dunn says that's more than last year due to the increased number of people expected to need a place to share Thanksgiving.

"There are lots of people who wouldn't have a place to go for Thanksgiving, either its' they don't have the resources to buy the meal or they don't have the friends and family around to share it with," Dunn said.  

Eighteen years ago, Dunn gave up this Thanksgiving to cook for others after his grandmother died. He says to feed a thousand people means 12 hour days this week, along with getting up before dawn on Thanksgiving to cook breakfast for volunteers.

"Get breakfast done and cleaned up and out of the way and then we really start cranking to make everything happen by 12 o'clock," Dunn said.

The Newman Catholic Center serves Thanksgiving from noon until two in Carbondale. In Herrin, Thanksgiving is served at the Herrin Civic Center from 11 until 2.

If you'd like to help call the Newman Center at 618-529-3311 or in Herrin contact Bart Mann at 618-942-5080.

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