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All are welcome at community Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, also at River Falls Family Restaurant

Event chairman Art Smith invites the community to a Thanksgiving Dinner 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday at St. Bridget Church, 221 E. Division St. Photo by Doug Stohlberg.

All are welcome to join in the River Falls Community Dinner, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at St. Bridget Church, 211 East Division St.

“There’s a lot of people out there that just needed kind of a place to go on Thanksgiving, not always for a meal, but just to get tighter with other people and have…a good meal and togetherness,” said Art Smith, community dinner chairman, “something that they’ll be thankful for.”

The annual, non-denominational dinner will be buffet style with traditional Thanksgiving fare: Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, dressing, coleslaw, cranberries, rolls, butter, milk, coffee, pickles and pumpkin pie.

Smith said the food is catered by the West Wind Supper Club in River Falls and sponsored by various local donors.

The goal this year is to serve 250-275 meals, including 75-85 meals carried out or delivered to shut-ins at their homes. Last year, Smith said there were around 275 meals.

Requests for carry out and meals delivered in the River Falls area can be made by calling 715-425-5478 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Nov. 25-26, or calling St. Bridget Church at 715-425-1870.

Smith said requests can be made even on Thanksgiving itself, but requests made on Thanksgiving Day will be limited by what food is available.

Delivery forms are available at various locations around town, including the River Falls Food Pantry, various local senior living apartments and at WelLHaven Senior apartments, 119 Union St., the River Falls Senior Nutrition Site. There is no Meals-on-Wheels delivery on Thanksgiving, so Smith said Community Dinner deliveries try to take the place of that for anyone who wants to order them.

Smith said about 90 community volunteers will work together to make this year’s Community Dinner happen. He said he enjoys getting to know the other volunteers he works with.

“It’s just kind of nice when people get together and they do something basically for the same cause,” Smith said. “No one’s doing it for recognition or anything like that. They’re just doing it help.”

Volunteers will help with everything from set up, to serving, to kitchen work, to dish washing and clean-up. Smith himself tries to keep an eye on things and make sure everything is running smoothly. He also spends time in the kitchen warming bread rolls in the oven.

He said the event is a lot of work — he will arrive at Saint Bridget at about 8 a.m. he said he won’t leave until about 2:30 or 3 p.m. But he said the event is definitely worth the work put into it.

“I just enjoy doing it,” Smith said. “It’s helping others.”

Smith said the community dinner began as Ezekiel Lutheran Church’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner. But in the mid-2000s, when Ezekiel was going to discontinue the event, Cecil Bjork took over planning the event, turning it into the non-denominational Thanksgiving meal it is today.

Smith has been the event chairman for the last five years.

For more information, contact Smith at 715-425-5478 or St. Bridget Catholic Church at 715-425-1870.

                                                            RF Family Restaurant

The community dinner isn’t the only free meal this Thanksgiving. The River Falls Family Restaurant, 702 N. Main St., will offer a free meal from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday.

Restaurant owner Jo-Jo Shabani said the restaurant will be serving roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables for free. He said anyone who wants to come eat is welcome.

Shabani said the entire Family Restaurant chain will offer a free Thanksgiving meal. There are about 20 restaurants in the chain.

For more information, contact River Falls Family Restaurant at 715-425-9440.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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