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Volunteers giving for Thanksgiving dinner

Darla Hayes is manning the kitchen for this year's Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

A heaping plate of food and entertainment from the Singing Grandmas and Alvin Koplin are just some of what diners can expect at the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner Nov. 26.

"It's free and it's fun," said organizer Richard Paper.

No reservations are needed and anyone can stop in, he said. Miss Wadena and her royal court will greet visitors at the door. The meal is a community experience, he emphasized.

The dinner is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Wadena-Deer Creek High School Commons and features all the traditional holiday fare such as turkey and stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie.

An army of volunteers puts on the holiday bash each year, and this year is no exception when it comes to needing a few helping hands.

Setting up the dining area, cutting pies and preparing food for serving are just a few of the tasks volunteers perform, Paper said. Having enough people for cleanup and washing dishes is especially needed. Volunteers also deliver meals to those unable to attend.

Abby's Bakery is cooking up the turkey and the dressing for the first time, Paper said.

Darla Hayes is the head cook at WDC High School and she is overseeing the kitchen for this year's Thanksgiving dinner. She keeps the turkey and dressing warm, sets up the stations where volunteers prepare food and helps guide the volunteers.

"Everybody's job is important that comes here and helps," Hayes said.

There is a group of people who volunteer year in and year out, Paper said. But there are a lot of new people each year who come with their kids. It's nice to rotate volunteers and give a lot of people a chance to participate, he said. Volunteers are welcome to have their Thanksgiving dinner there, too.

The reaction from first-time volunteers always strikes him, he said. People walk around with big smiles on their face and tell him how much fun the dinner is.

"I'm glad it can have that effect on people that are basically donating their time on a day when people are fairly busy," Paper said. "I think that's pretty amazing."