The joy of getting together for Thanksgiving is sharing gratitude for the people in your life – be it family, friends, or neighbors. For a lot of Pocahontas countians, that joy is derived from giving back to the community.
Several areas of the county hold annual Thanksgiving or hunters’ dinners to supply a good meal to visitors, as well as funds to local charities.
The Hunters’ Dinner provided by the Seneca Trail Community Center in Slaty Fork began in the 70s as a fundraiser for the center itself, but has grown to give donations to local organizations.
“One year we gave money to the Methodist Church in Slaty Fork to paint their church,” volunteer Ellen Doyle said. “Last year the friends of the [Linwood] library took it over more or less, so this is the second year it will benefit the library. That could change if there is some charitable thing we could do.”
The dinner began as a modest bean dinner for hunters and some local families. It has grown to a full fledged ham or turkey dinner with all the fixins. While the dinner is held during the Thanksgiving season, Doyle said it isn’t to deter from families’ plans.
“It isn’t to replace the Thanksgiving dinner,” she said. “We don’t want to do that. We always had it during deer season to attract the deer hunters because they always wanted someplace to eat. We get a good turnout, almost one hundred people.”
Hunters have become so accustomed to the dinner that they return each year and are disappointed if it’s ever canceled.
“There might have been one year when something happened – an emergency – and we didn’t have it. I think they really missed it and really wanted it back. I see no reason to stop it.”
The Minnehaha United Methodist Church has hosted a free Thanksgiving/Hunters’ Dinner for the past six or seven years and also sees many of the same faces come back each year.
“I would say we get between fifty and sixty people,” volunteer Barbara Kelly said. “It attracts more local people and some hunters. There are campers, but they’re not from far away.”
Although the dinner is free, visitors give donations that go to the church.
Joining the crowd is newcomer White Pine Church Camp. This year is the first for the roasted pork loin dinner to benefit the church camp. Held at the Arbovale Community Center, the dinner takes a left turn away from tradition offering pork instead of turkey, but it is still a good meal for a great cause.
“The proceeds will help buy food for the kids that come to camp there and to also pay their tuition,” volunteer Phyllis Romine said. “We don’t turn any kids down. Sometimes we have anywhere around twenty-five to thirty girls and probably about twenty boys. Then we have adults that usually contribute to the camp and give us donations.”
Romine enlisted the help of members of her church – Boyer Brethren Church – and neighbors, to make the meal. Romine hopes to make the dinner an annual event if it is a success.
The last of the season’s dinners will be Thanksgiving, at Al’s Upper Inn Club in Durbin. This is the third year the restaurant has hosted a free Thanksgiving meal.
Each year, the restaurant selects a county charity to receive all donations collected. Everything for the meal is donated so all proceeds benefit the charity.
“This year, our charity is the Northern Pocahontas County Food Bank,” owner Laura Dent said. “Last year we did Habitat for Humanity and the first year we did it for the Durbin Library fund. Every year we’re trying to find somebody different that’s in the area here.”
The dinner attracts around 75 people who have turned it into a new family tradition.
“I have a family that comes in from Valley Head,” Dent said. “They have company come from out of state and they come up here to eat. We have a good mixture of people. We have individual tables and we also have community tables, so if you’re here by yourself and you don’t want to sit alone, there’s groups that you can sit with. There’s a lot of people that know each other. If they come in by themselves and see a family they know, they’ll join them.”
The dinner at Al’s is Thursday, November 27, 2 to 7 p.m.
This season, be thankful and giving.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org