NEW ULM - A Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who wanted one drew a crowd and many carryouts Thursday at the Church of St. Mary.
Community Friends Chairman Jim Thomas said the dinner, held at St. Mary's Catholic Church but not church-affiliated, began nearly three decades ago when snow-bound travelers from North Dakota were forced to stay in New Ulm on Thanksgiving.
"Back then, the only place open in town on Thanksgiving Day was the Kaiserhoff," Thomas said. "People didn't have a place to go so we shared our dinner with them. We wound up forming an informal, non-profit organization - Community Friends. Supported by free-will (monetary and food) donations, we'll serve more than 1,000 meals. We couldn't do it without all the volunteer help we get."
Bill Koeckeritz stands in front of the sign at Kikatiti Secondary School. Th school planted a tree in memory of Linda Dybsetter. Linda and her husband Doug Dybsetter were missionaries connected to Our Saviors Lutheran Church in New Ulm who served at the school in Kikatiti.
Preparation of turkey, gravy, squash, cole slaw, pickles, carrots, celery, rolls, butter, pumpkin pie and whipped creak cooking began at 4:30 a.m. Thursday in the church kitchen.
Dinner preparation included hundreds of pounds of turkey and large amounts of cabbage, carrots, corn, cranberries, onions, potatoes, bread stuffing, squash, butter, sugar, buns and pumpkin pies.
Diners included a couple from Andover with relatives in Dawson who meet in New Ulm to eat Thanksgiving dinner because it is about half way between the two places.
Volunteers collected food from servers and placed it in styrofoam containers before they were bagged and stacked for carry out in the church basement.
Thomas met with volunteers, gave them some last-minute instructions and said a prayer before food was served to the public on dozens of tables in the church.
Henk Exoo of New Ulm, a volunteer "pot and bottle washer" as he put it, said his volunteer work on Thanksgiving was "one of the most fun things I do in New Ulm."
Don Brand of New Ulm was working in the kitchen. "I just love to volunteer," he said.
A sign in the church basement read "Wanted and needed: dishwashers and wipers. Fringe benefits out of this world."
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.