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Makings Of A Meal

Organizations Provide Thanksgiving Day Options

Marlene Lucas, Marvin House cook, is pictured preparing a turkey to be roasted in one of three ovens to be used this year. Serving Thanksgiving meals to dozens of guests takes plenty of planning. Several local organizations, including the Marvin House and St. Susan Center, will be serving meals this holiday. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

Preparing a Thanksgiving meal for a family can be a daunting task.

There’s the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables and — probably most important, depending on who you ask — the dessert.

Multiply that meal several dozen times over and you’ll have what some organizations have been planning for several weeks now.

Groups, including the St. Susan Center and Marvin House in Jamestown, will be serving meals to hundreds of people today. The area soup kitchen, 31 Water St., has long served traditional Thanksgiving meals, currently with the help of two part-time cooks and about 20 dedicated volunteers. Meanwhile, the Marvin House, 2 W. Fifth St., will be serving its first Thanksgiving meal to the community.

Whether planning a meal for 50 people or 250, a bit of preparation is necessary.

“It does take about two weeks of planning,” said Bonny Scott-Sleight, St. Susan Center executive director.

With the organization’s two cooks preparing meals on a daily basis, extra time is required to ensure enough food is ready for Thanksgiving. That includes 25 turkeys to feed as many as 250 people who might turn up at the soup kitchen in addition to traditional side dishes.

“We have two cooks, and in their mindsets, they’re starting to plan for it in advance,” Scott-Sleight said. “Even with serving meals every other day, they’re still able to pull it off every year.”

Scott-Sleight said St. Susan Center was “blessed” to have a dedicated staff including volunteers who are willing to serve others on Thanksgiving. She also noted the work put in by the two cooks, Larry Riffle and John Higbee.

“They prepare all the meals and the soups,” she said of the duo. “The meals, they’re just so good.”

Staff at St. Susan Center are pictured preparing meals before Thanksgiving. The local soup kitchen has long served meals on Thanksgiving. Submitted photo

Work done by the organization has not gone unnoticed. Scott-Sleight said in October, the soup kitchen served 11,369 meals. That’s up from the 10,018 meals served in September.

Asked what Thanksgiving means to her, Scott-Sleight said, “It’s a time to sit and be thankful and recognize that we have so much to be blessed for every day. I don’t think people always recognize that — just try to take time and be thankful that at any moment it can be taken away.”

At the Marvin House, cook Marlene Lucas will be serving more than 50 meals to guests today. Lucas said cooking Thanksgiving dinner is one of her favorite pastimes.

“When I first started working and I was homesick on the weekends I would cook turkeys,” Lucas said. “That was something big that I could invite everybody over to and you could have whatever. I’ve been doing turkey dinners for quite a long time.”

For the Marvin House’s Thanksgiving buffet, Lucas plans to cook at least three large turkeys in addition to a variety of side dishes. She also plans to make a few different desserts, giving guests plenty to choose from.

“I know there are a lot of people who are by themselves and don’t want to have to go out and buy a turkey and make their mashed potatoes and gravy,” she said. “I was just thinking that many are older and have downsized, and many have done this for years but it’s gotten to the point where they’re not going to do it.

“I don’t want people to not be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner,” Lucas said of starting a buffet. “So I just thought, ‘Why not?’ I’m hoping to give them a Thanksgiving, but also be able to share one with my family.”

Lucas said preparing any Thanksgiving meal means getting the turkey right. She always makes sure to begin thawing her birds the weekend before the holiday. She also keeps safety in mind, making sure to sanitize her workplace before starting.

“It’s about family,” Lucas said of Thanksgiving. “Getting friends together and enjoying a nice meal together and being thankful for all we have. I love to cook Thanksgiving dinner. It’s something that I’ve done for a long time.”

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