Folks gobble up free dinners

Eagles, Legion offer turkey and all the trimmings

— The Quad City Eagles hosted its annual free Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, and good times were had despite a small turnout.

Fifteen people brought their appetites, Dianne Sleeper said, but everyone stayed for “a couple hours.”

“It was really, really nice and they all enjoyed it and said they’d be back next year,” she said. “It was for the people who had no place to go and they came, and that’s what’s awesome about it. That’s the whole purpose behind it.”

With only three volunteers, the Eagles served two different kinds of turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, California blend vegetables, potatoes and gravy, stuffing and several varieties of pie, Sleeper said.

Everything was homemade, and all but two pies were made from scratch.

“We tried to do it all home-style, and we got lots of compliments so it was worth the extra effort,” she said.

This year’s menu featured a new twist on the traditional turkey, cooked with paprika and sour cream.

“The gravy was made with sour cream too, and everyone enjoyed it,” she said.

Clean-up was a snap with the help of the volunteers.

“I had wonderful help this year. We even had a guy who liked to do dishes,” she said with a laugh. “Big thanks go to them, for sure.”

The Eagles have served Thanksgiving dinner for at least eight years, when Sleeper moved to town. The fraternity also hosts a free community dinner at 1 p.m. on Christmas day at 1030 Columbia Ave.

About 20 minutes away in Brewster, there was a quiet meal at the Legion, where about 70 people of all ages showed up for a free dinner of turkey, ham and all the trimmings.

“That’s pretty good, because the Eagles have one too, and a lot of the Bridgeport people go to that one,” Legion Auxiliary member Thea Nilsen said of this year’s turnout at the Post 97 hall, 102 N. Main Ave.

Tables were filled with piping-hot vegetables, pies, sweet potato casserole, rolls, gravy and, of course, turkey.

“We usually cook like three turkeys and two hams and then all the side dishes,” Nilsen said. “We usually have plenty of food. Anyone is more than welcome.”

The Legion also provided meals to go for anyone who wanted to deliver food to those who can’t leave their homes.

“A lot of times, if somebody’s sheltered in and some of their family members come, we let them take some food home for them, too,” Nilsen said.

Auxiliary member Heidi Caswell and Legion member Joe Wick cooked this year’s meal, with help from Legion First Vice Commander Denny Pittman and resident Marge Hagy.

“Marge Hagy is an honorary member because she does so much for the Legion and the community,” Nilsen said.

The Legion has hosted free community dinners on Thanksgiving and Christmas for about 10 years, ever since the Lincoln Tavern burned down, Nilsen said. Before that, the tavern hosted dinners since 1977.

The Legion welcomes people who don’t have anywhere to go on Thanksgiving or simply don’t want to cook for themselves, such as older retired couples.

Pittman said he wanted to make sure people know in the future that many Legion events are open to the community and aren’t just members-only. That includes dinners served on Friday nights.

Tonasket Eagles Aerie No. 3002, 213 S. Western Ave., served meals to more people this year.

“We served 113 meals,” volunteer Sue Wisener said. “That’s about 15 ahead of last year.”

While the group saw a variety of people, the majority had one thing in common.

“A lot of people came who just don’t want to cook,” she said. “We put out a good meal … and lots of pies.”

Other main volunteers were Wisener’s husband, Ron Wisener, and Lyle Anderson. This was Sue Wisener’s third year volunteering, and while she said she loves doing it, she misses having leftovers at home.

Thanksgiving dinners also were hosted at Eva’s Diner and Bakery in Oroville, 712 14th Ave.; and the Methow Valley United Methodist Church, 193 B Old Twisp Highway.

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