‘Serving others’ on Thanksgiving

35th annual community dinner draws a crowd

A large crowd wound around tables of pumpkin pie at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner Thursday.

NEW ULM — The wind was cool outside but the atmosphere was warm and friendly at the 35th Annual New Ulm Community Thanksgiving Dinner at St. Mary’s Church Thursday.

For the 35th year, the free event with food made from scratch thanks to many volunteers and donations included turkey, stuffing, potatoes, corn, squash, gravy, cranberries, pumpkin pie and whipped cream made from scratch drew hundreds of people.

More than 200 volunteers helped prepare food for more than 1,000 meals Wednesday.

The event began decades ago when New Ulm residents Jim Thomas and Bill Koeckeritz planned to take a Thanksgiving trip but had to stay home due to a snowstorm. The men helped prepare dinner for other stranded travelers and the event continued to grow each year.

Much of the squash, one of the more popular food choices, was grown in a community garden tended by Brown County Sentence to Service participants.

New Ulm Community Thanksgiving dinner servers included John and Lorna Luepke of Courtland and Lisa Kaye of Mankato, to the left of John Luepke.

“I just like helping people,” said Joan Rubischko of New Ulm who set tables Thursday.

“It’s tremendous. A great community builder for people who can’t get together with relatives. I have no family close by and the food is wonderful,” said Marv Sluiter of New Ulm.

Willard and Dorothy Waibel who farmed southwest of New Ulm much of their lives, have been coming to the dinner for many years.

“I believe we haven’t missed any Thanksgiving dinners here,” said Willard. “Our family is scattered all over the world. Our nearest relatives live in Comfrey and North Mankato. Others live in Florida and California.”

Waibel said he doesn’t have a favorite food served at the dinner.

“Everything is absolutely delicious. I hope the dinners continue. It’s a wonderful, wonderful think,” he added.

Henk Exoo of New Ulm was busy washing pots and pans Thursday.

“I feel I’m having a good effect. I washed pots and pans in my younger days to help pay for college,” Exoo said.

Perhaps Thanksgiving volunteer Don Brand said it best on Thanksgiving several years ago.

“You do your best work serving others,” Brand said.

Freewill donations were accepted at the dinner.


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