The work for the Homeless Alliance's annual Thanksgiving feast began Tuesday with a dance.
The Clayton Bahr Turkey Tango commenced Tuesday after donated turkeys from Butterball arrived at Francis Tuttle's School of Culinary Art and chef Anna Banda raised her conductor's baton to trigger Oklahoma City's answer to feeding the 5,000.
Once an overnight process a handful of dedicated volunteers forged through, the Turkey Tango puts to work the state-of-the-art equipment in Francis Tuttle's kitchen labs to feed hundreds of Oklahoma City's homeless population a hot Thanksgiving meal.
The Homeless Alliance is among the local shelters the Turkey Tango supports, which is great news for chef Aaron Goddard.
Goddard took the stove at the Westtown day shelter a few months ago, following a procession of chefs attempting to follow in the footsteps of Delbert Briggs and Johnny Wofford before him. Goddard was all smiles on Wednesday morning as food arrived from chef Brad Johnson and Mike Rogers of Hal Smith Restaurants (Mahogany, Neighborhood Jam, Jimmy B's), and Nick Schaeffer of Urban Management Incorporated (Interurban, Hunny Bunny Biscuit Co., Packard's New American Kitchen).
Those restaurant groups joined 84 Hospitality (Empire Slice House, Goro Ramen + Izakaya), Ned's Catering and Ben E. Keith Foods to supplysides, gravy, rolls and dessert. Chef Banda and her band of students and volunteers supplied the fresh turkey with help from Backman Rub Co.
About 400 of Oklahoma City's homeless community lined up well before the first plate of turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, yams, mashed potatoes, gravy and green bean casserole was prepared. Goddard's volunteers were able to dish out enough Thanksgiving to fill the dining room by noon, marking Westtown's first full Thanksgiving feast since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's been so much work," said Kinsey Crocker, director of marketing and communications. "It's nice to have things back to some kind of normal."
Among the throng was Gemini Lyons and his Chihuahua Little Bit, who shared a plate of turkey and dressing. Little Bit kept the crowd entertained with enthusiastic yips and pirouettes while patiently waiting in line. That earned the pup the gift of gobbler once Lyons made it through the line.
While Westtown and the Homeless Alliance offices will be closed on Thanksgiving, Crocker shared a list of seven places folks in need can find a free, hot turkey dinner.
Crocker and her co-workers at the Homeless Alliance were all breathing a sigh of relief on Wednesday thanks to the news the city council struck down a proposed ordinance that would've made arresting the homeless easier for police.
"We're very thankful the city council embraced compassion," Homeless Alliance Executive Director Dan Straughan said. "And we're thankful to have all these volunteers here to make Thanksgiving for our clients. It's just amazing."
With the holiday fully in view, Crocker said the Homeless Alliance has specific needs. Hand-warmers, lip balm, winter gloves, hats, coats, jackets and rain ponchos are all sought. She said men's size large and up are particularly low in supply.
"We are also searching for people to purchase gifts for our clients," she said.
Chef Goddard was happy to be on dish patrol Wednesday, taking a break from slinging spoons and spatulas to produce lunch and breakfast for 300 to 500 folks daily at Westtown.
"It's a mess," he shrugged while maintaining the smile that hadn't left his face since arriving. "But it's my mess."
Folks who want to help Goddard at Westtown or are interested in the Homeless Alliance's gift-angel program can sign up online at the volunteer hub at www.homelessallliance.org.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OKC's Homeless Alliance serves Thanksgiving with help of volunteers