Preparations nearly complete for Community Thanksgiving Dinner

Nov. 21—Final preparations are nearly complete for the Pittsburg County Community Thanksgiving Dinner — thanks to elected officials and community volunteers who've worked hours to get it ready.

Plans call for those who have signed up to participate to begin picking up carryouts at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, which is Thursday, Nov. 23, at the Southeast Expo Center at 4500 West U.S. Highway 270.

Home deliveries to those who are unable to get to the Expo Center and who have made arrangements in advance are set to begin Thursday morning around 8 a.m. and continue until deliveries are complete.

The number to call to participate in the Community Thanksgiving Dinner up until noon Wednesday, Nov. 22, is 918 423-7785. After that time, no one will be available to answer the phone, organizers said.

Among community volunteers who helped with the Community Thanksgiving Dinner were three generations of the Graham family, who worked this week on a variety of preparations.

They included Tommy Graham, his adult son, John Graham, and John's children, teens Hayden Graham and Hannah Graham.

They assisted with a variety of tasks, including everything from deboning turkeys and crumbling cornbread, to transporting boxes for use as containers.

Tommy Graham, who's served as a volunteer for 37 of the Community Thanksgiving Dinner's 38 years, also helped cook some of the 60 turkeys prepared for the holiday meal. His daughter, Hunter Graham, also had served as a volunteer while growing up. She now works in the medical field.

The family tradition of assisting with the Pittsburg County Community Thanksgiving Dinner came naturally to the Grahams.

"We enjoy helping out," Tommy Graham said. "It's part of growing up and it's lots of fun," Graham said of his family's reasons for helping every year."

Community volunteers included Ronna Baldwin, who said she's helping out with the Community Thanksgiving Dinner for the first time.

Baldwin said she had wanted to volunteer to help before, but had always been so busy on Thanksgiving Day preparing her own holiday dinner.

She said it dawned on her that she could assist with prep work that would be needed through the first part of the week.

Baldwin pitched right in, with members of the Graham family, in deboning turkeys at the Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management.

"I'm thrilled to be here," she said. "I'm going to vow to do it every year, starting this year."

Both Charlene Spears and former Pittsburg County Assessor Jim Kelly have been serving as volunteers for the entire 38 years that the Pittsburg County Community Thanksgiving Dinner has been in existence.

This year's menu includes turkey and dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, said Pittsburg County Assessor Michelle Fields.

Along with carryout trays with the main items, a sack will be included with each meal which includes a slice of pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, rolls and a soft drink, said Pittsburg County Clerk Hope Trammell.

As preparations continued this week, Baldwin felt glad she made the move to help prepare the holiday dinner.

"It's a wonderful, wonderful opportunity to serve," she said.

Tommy Graham had some thoughts on the Community Thanksgiving Dinner's success over 38 years.

"I think it's a good thing," he said. "People want to participate — and partake — in it."