Updated: Dec 8, 2021
Violet, left, and Linda Long deliver meals to a vehicles for the La Cygne Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Saturday. (Photos by Roger Sims, Linn County Journal)
LA CYGNE – They might not have eaten together, but nearly 400 La Cygne-area residents ate the same meal prepared by the same hands on Saturday, Nov. 13, as the La Cygne Community Thanksgiving Dinner went curbside.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on the annual event for the second year in a row, it did not stop a dedicated group of volunteers. Beginning as early as 2 a.m. that day, they gathered in the kitchen of the new La Cygne Library addition to whip up a dinner that included turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, rolls and cookies.
Set to start at 3 p.m. and run through 5 p.m., the dinners were ready to go at the appointed time. Every table in the library’s meeting room was filled with maroon-colored goody bags, nearly 400 in all, each containing two containers for the dinner.
La Cygne-area businesses and individuals donated money to help make the meal possible. Area churches provided about 600 rolls and more than enough cookies for the meal.
The crew of volunteers for the dinner included, from left, Violet Long, Linda Long, Arlene McClanahan, Reta Sanders, Sharon Abeyta, Karen Smith, Rita Grant, Dian Dotts and Debi Doering. Amy Clark and Debbie Burchett also volunteered in preparing the meal.
Arlene McClanahan, one of the volunteers, had worked at the last community Thanksgiving dinner served in-person at La Cygne Elementary School. She recalled that day when meals were fed to 450 people, only about 60 more than had signed up for the curbside meal.
At 3 p.m. the cars began pulling into the alley behind the library, and sisters Violet and Linda Long took turns running out to the vehicles to find out a name and how many dinners were ordered. Inside, their grandmother, Debi Doering, crossed off names that were on the reservation list and other volunteers loaded the girls up with bags to deliver out to the waiting diners.
Some drove through to pick up one dinner. Others picked up dinners for their whole family. Some drove through in modest vehicles, others were in rides that were shiny and new.
What didn’t matter to the volunteers was the “customers’” age, the number in the family, where they lived, or how wealthy or poor they were.
What mattered was that the La Cygne Community Thanksgiving Dinner tradition that began nearly two decades ago was continuing and that the community was again sharing a meal, even though they ate in separate homes.
Standing in front of tables full of bags containing dinners, Rita Grant shows the food that each diner received.