Sharing thanks

IVANHOE – Around 10:30 Saturday morning in the Ivanhoe VFW hall, a band of local 4-H members, food shelf committee members and other volunteers worked quickly to get a batch of takeout meals ready for the Hendricks Nursing Home residents and staff.

The crew members were making sure they got the meal requests down – no meat for one or no cranberries for another as boxes and coolers were packed.

“I think we have 60 meals going that way,” Shelly Rybinski said. Rybinski said the family members of the residents and nursing home staff members had collected food items for the local food shelf.

For a little more than a decade, the Ivanhoe-Hendricks-Arco area food shelf, along with the Ivanhoe Greenleaf 4-H club and the Salvation Army serve a community Thanksgiving dinner. People are asked to donate to the food shelf and the Salvation Army.

“If it weren’t for the Ivanhoe Greenleaf (4-H) club, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” said Muriel Koopman, one of the meal’s organizers.

A lot of work goes into the community dinner from cooking the food to getting the VFW hall ready to serve area residents. 4-H members and their parents were cutting the pumpkin dessert and topping pieces with whipped cream.

“Yesterday (Friday) we did the dressing,” Koopman said.

“We have lots of people who donate food,” Koopman added.

Koopman said the food shelf committee meets once a year, where it discusses projects, such as food boxes and the community Thanksgiving dinner.

Koopman said that Rybinski is a tremendous help. When it was mentioned that there was going to be quite a few takeouts for the Hendricks Nursing Home, she ordered another turkey, Koopman said. Ten 20-pound turkeys are cooked for the community meal, which can serve almost 400 people in two hours’ time.

Beverly Wilson said she was asked at one time if she would make the gravy for the community meal after the woman who used to do it moved away.

“And I said I need help, so I called Mavis (Bruening),” Wilson said.

But Bruening doesn’t mind standing over a hot stove for most of the morning making gravy and stirring.

“It’s for a good cause, and I get to visit,” Bruening said.

By 11:20 a.m., the VFW hall was nearly filled with people visiting, eating and enjoying a little conversation. Florence Dorn and Leona Christianson, both of Hendricks, said they come to the community meal every year.

“It’s good food,” said Dorn.

Christianson said the dinner was for a good purpose, supporting the food shelf.

“We’re glad we can donate,” Dorn said. “It’s a good place to renew fellowship and support the 4-H.”

“It’s fun,” said Ivanhoe Greenleaf 4-H member Leah Popowski of the community meal. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun helping the younger kids.”

“People really look forward to it,” Agnes Rybinski said.

“I love the people and seeing the people,” said Lorry Conrad, one of the volunteers.

The Ivanhoe Greenleaf members were bustling around the VFW hall – some were collecting the canned goods that were being donated, others helped with cleanup duties and a few asked people if they wanted help with their trays. Some time later, Shelly Rybinski came back with 105 food items for the food shelf from the Hendricks Nursing Home. By noon, 320 people had come through the doors of the VFW for dinner.