Organizing this year's Thanksgiving dinner at the Parker Senior Center in Minot has required months of planning for Michelle Bussard and others working at the Salvation Army.
"The planning of this takes about 2 1/2 months," said Bussard, the social services director for the Salvation Army. "I started at the end of September."
The dinner, which is open to the public, will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Parker Senior Center, located at 21-1st Ave. SE. Well before the turkeys are served, people will be working to make sure it all comes together just right.
Michelle Bussard is the director of social services for the Salvation Army in Minot.
"It takes at least 100 volunteers," said Bussard.
That includes the parking attendants, who will make sure that guests at the dinner can park and get into the building safely. Since some of the guests will be senior citizens, it's important to keep everyone safe.
More volunteers work in the kitchen, preparing turkey and fixings that are largely donated by local businesses. Nash Finch donates the potatoes; Marketplace Foods donates all of the turkeys; the Minot Commission on Aging donates other items.
This year's team of head chefs are volunteers from Minot Air Force Base, said Bussard. Other volunteers come from all walks of life.
The dinner itself will be a real feast, with turkey and ham, stuffing that originates from the annual media stuffing contest, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, potates and dinner rolls.
This year there will be green bean casserole instead of corn. Bussard suggested the change as a way to add more variety to the dinner.
People can either attend the Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. Or people who are homebound for some reason can make reservations and have a hot Thanksgiving dinner delivered to their home, in either the Henry or Milton Young Towers or elsewhere in the community. Different teams team up to deliver to various locations.
Bussard has been organizing volunteers and taking reservations from families, using a computer spread sheet. "It operates like a well-oiled machine," she said.
Bussard, who has worked with the Salvation Army for over two years, said she also works with a number of the other programs that serve people in the community, including the bell ringer program and the food pantry.
It's a privilege for her to work with so many people from different walks of life.
She and her husband Dave have long been active in the community since they moved here several years ago. Bussard had been a volunteer in the schools and other community groups before she took the position at the Salvation Army and those connections help her in her current role, since she knows most people in town.
Bussard said, though there is an increasing need in the community due to the flood and ongoing oil boom, there are so many service agencies in town that there is no reason for someone to go hungry. If Bussard sees someone begging, she hands them a flier giving a list of service agencies that might be able to offer help, including local soup kitchens and food pantries. The Salvation Army is not as able to help people with skyrocketing housing costs, but Bussard said there's no reason for people in need to spend their dollars on expensive food if they run short at the end of the month even with government assistance. Food pantries and soup kitchens are there to help. Bussard also knows people at other service agencies in town and they make referrals to one another, so that if a family doesn't qualify for one program, they might qualify for another.
Bussard said the Salvation Army couldn't put on an event like the Thanksgiving dinner or the bell ringer campaign without its army of volunteers, but it also needs volunteers who are able to commit to a few hours every week at a certain location.
People who want to volunteer or donate should call the Salvation Army office at 838-8925.
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