Community dinner 2

Cook Mona Esquiro checks on the yams Thursday morning at the Presbyterian Friendship Center, La Grande, in preparation of the community Thanksgiving Day meal from the nonprofit Neighbors Together.

Community dinner 1

Cook Mona Esquiro checks on the yams Thursday morning at the Presbyterian Friendship Center, La Grande, in preparation of the community Thanksgiving Day meal from the nonprofit Neighbors Together.

LA GRANDE — Mona Esquiro had plenty on her mind Thursday morning in La Grande, but her focus was on one thing: “Gravy, gravy, gravy,” she sang.

Lots of gravy. Turkey gravy. Somewhere around 10 gallons of the stuff.

Esquiro headed up cooking the annual community Thanksgiving dinner at the Presbyterian Friendship Center, just as she has the three years prior for the charitable nonprofit Neighbors Together, which organizes the event.

Community dinner 3

Destiny Fouts and Chester Wilson of La Grande join tables full of locals Thursday for the annual community Thanksgiving Day meal at the Presbyterian Friendship Center, La Grande. Fouts won the apple pie at the event’s raffle.

“It’s fun,” she said. “I have so many volunteers. I just have to tell them what to do. It’s really good.”

She had the hard part out of the way. Esquiro said she spent Wednesday in the center’s industrial kitchen cooking 10 turkeys, each about 15 pounds.

“I had all the ovens going. It was so hot in here,” she exclaimed.

And there were the 100 pounds of russets for the mashed potatoes, and 50 pounds of yams, and the rolls and cranberry sauce and more. And the pies for dessert. Esquiro said volunteers would provide anywhere from 50 to 75 pies.

All together, she said, the goods make about 200 meals. So there has to be plenty of gravy.

Community dinner 4

Shari Carpenter, a marketing instructor at Eastern Oregon University, La Grande, helps ready pies Thursday morning for the Neighbors Together annual community Thanksgiving Day meal.

“They love my gravy,” she said. “And of course they put it on the potatoes, the stuffing and everything.”

Hanna Voetberg said she is all about the gravy. The president of Neighbors Together, she told Esquiro she wants her mashed potatoes “swimming in it.”

Esquiro replied she’s a stuffing person.

“I can always have mashed potatoes and gravy,” she said. “But stuffing?”

The event opened to the public at about noon and started serving around a half hour later. Voetberg said the meal is for anyone who wants it. Neighbors Together took over the event four years ago, and that Thanksgiving members of the EOU football team came.

“Those guys could really pack it away,” Voetberg recalled.

And this year, the university’s women soccer team attended. The team is getting ready for a return to the NAIA national tournament’s final location in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Kathleen Hollingshead said she has been coming to the community meal year after year for two decades. While the food always is tasty, she said it’s the community that keeps her coming back. She may not be able to donate, she said, but participation matters. If no one shows up for these gatherings, the events tend to die out, she said.

Couple Destiny Fouts and Chester Wilson said they were first timers. Wilson said he was happy he didn’t have to clean and do the dishes this Thanksgiving, and they both said the dinner had everything you could ask for.

“Kind of like Grandma used to make it, really,” Fouts said.

Fouts and Wilson ended up with a fair bit of dessert. During the event’s raffle, she won an apple pie.

Community dinner 5.JPG

Volunteers serve up the goods Thursday during the annual community Thanksgiving Day meal at the Presbyterian Friendship Center, La Grande. The nonprofit Neighbors Together took over the event four years ago and prepares around 200 meals for the day, including plenty of pie.

Going home with extras is just fine with Esquiro. She said the aim is to provide for those who need it.

“Nobody goes hungry here,” she said.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.