St. Michael’s Community Kitchen volunteers, From left, Delaine Voloshin and Della Baldwin pose with Voloshin’s granddaughter, Isabella Sanchez, near potatoes and other food donated to the kitchen for its Thanksgiving meal Thursday. The kitchen served Thanksgiving meals to about 180 people last year, including homebound residents who had meals delivered to them, volunteer Robin Schiffbauer said.

Photo by Bridget Manley

St. Michael’s Community Kitchen volunteers, From left, Delaine Voloshin and Della Baldwin pose with Voloshin’s granddaughter, Isabella Sanchez, near potatoes and other food donated to the kitchen for its Thanksgiving meal Thursday. The kitchen served Thanksgiving meals to about 180 people last year, including homebound residents who had meals delivered to them, volunteer Robin Schiffbauer said.

TMH, community kitchen gearing up for holiday meals

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Mark Stanczak, executive chef at The Memorial Hospital, holds a package of turkey breast inside one of the hospital’s walk-in refrigerators Tuesday. The hospital will provide a free Thanksgiving meal Thursday to people visiting patients in the hospital, as well as hospital staff and their families. Stanczak has ordered about 45 pounds of turkey breasts and about 15 pounds of potatoes for the meal, he said.

Turkeys: check.

Potatoes: got it.

Pumpkin pie: you bet.

Enough to feed 40 to 100 or more people?

Hope so.

St. Michael’s Community Kitchen and The Memorial Hospital in Craig are serving up Thanksgiving meals similar to what many families will find on their tables Thursday.

The only difference is the cooks have to prepare for a lot more guests, many of whom may not have family or cannot be home for the holiday.

TMH executive chef Mark Stanczak is planning to serve about 40 people this Thanksgiving.

He’s ordered between 45 and 50 pounds of turkey breasts and about 15 pounds of potatoes, all of which sat waiting in massive walk-in refrigerators at the hospital Tuesday afternoon.

“Whether we use it all or not is a different story,” Stanczak said. “But … (I’d) rather be safe than sorry because for free meals, you don’t want to run out.”

The food — along with gravy, stuffing and pumpkin pie — will be served to patients who, for one reason or another, will be in the hospital on Thanksgiving.

Their visitors and family members can also enjoy a meal for free, the chef said, “since obviously sometimes mom might be in the (hospital) … and she’s the one that usually does Thanksgiving dinner.”

The meal will also feed staff members who are working on Thanksgiving, which includes Stanczak, and staff members’ families are welcome to attend, too.

“That’s what Thanksgiving is about — being with family,” he said.

St. Michael’s Community Kitchen also is preparing for a large meal this year.

The kitchen served about 180 people last year, volunteer Robin Schiffbauer said. That included those who came to the kitchen — located in the basement of St. Michael Catholic Church, 678 School St. — and meals delivered to homebound residents.

This year, volunteers have 10 turkeys and an estimated 70 pounds of potatoes on hand for Thursday’s meal, which is free and open to anyone, Schiffbauer said.

In the end, though, the kitchen’s free meal offers more than what can be weighed or counted.

“It’s wonderful for people who don’t have anybody to share a meal with,” she said. “The seniors who come, they meet a lot of other seniors who they’ve known for years.

“Families that come in — some of them are new to the area and it’s a great way for them to meet other families.”

Kitchen volunteers have had help from several sources, including several women from Friendship Methodist Church who made pies from pumpkins donated to the kitchen on Halloween.

“It’s really been a community-wide effort, which is wonderful,” Schiffbauer said.

Volunteers also credited a divine source with helping make the annual event possible.

Della Baldwin, one of the cooks for the meal, was getting ready to leave the kitchen Tuesday afternoon when a donation arrived.

It was a turkey, just what Baldwin needed to prepare gravy for the Thanksgiving meal.

As Baldwin drove out of the church parking lot a few minutes later, she paused, rolled down her window and pointed skyward, as if giving credit, or maybe giving thanks.

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