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Serving up a Hot Thanksgiving Meal Come Rain or Snow
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Liz Hickey alerts passersby to a dinner of Chicken Posole.
   
Sunday, November 21, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

They may be the most enthusiastic waiters and waitresses in the Wood River Valley.

They show up come sun, rain or snow. And they’ve even been known to flag down bus drivers to see if they would like a meal to-go.

They are the volunteers behind Ketchum Community Dinners 2.0. They filled the gap when the original Ketchum Community Dinners and Souper Suppers stopped operating due to the pandemic.

 
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Sara Gorby hands off a dinner in a bag.
 

And, now, they’re getting ready to hand out hot meals of turkey, stuffing and green beans between 5 and 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Eve outside St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

“It’s a real joyful thing to be able to offer people a meal like this,” said Sara Gorby, who is among the throng of volunteers. “We’re feeding not just stomachs but souls.”

Ketchum resident Michael Hobbs started a sit-down Ketchum Community Dinners in 2008 as the recession gained momentum. On occasion, as many as a hundred men, women and children showed up.

Beth Grinstead took it over and headed it up the next 10 years with the help of community groupsand community partners like Perry’s, Big Wood Bread and Ketchum Grill. Then the pandemic hit in March 2020.

 
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Some of the volunteers include Art Dahl, Helen Morgus, Liz Hickey, Rae DeVito, Bobbie Dahl and Helen Mehra.
 

Ketchum Community Dinners, which had been housed at the Church of the Big Wood, shut down as the governor ordered Blaine County residents to shelter in place. And so did Souper Suppers in Hailey.

But in August 2020 St. Thomas Episcopal Church decided to revive the dinners, offering Grab and Go dinners handed out once a week in the parking lot.

“The first week we handed out 20 meals. Since, we’ve handed out as many as 110 meals a week. And even during slack we’re handing out 80,” said Liz Hickey. “We gave out 3,721 meals that first year.”

Typically, volunteers gather to make the casseroles on Saturday or Sunday. And, on two occasions, they found themselves offering sustenance outside their normal hours when two hungry young men showed up at the door, wondering if they might avail themselves of the food they could smell from the street.

 
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Bobbie Dahl grabs a bag as the sun sets behind Bald Mountain.
 

“We felt on both occasions that it was as if Jesus had come to visit and needed a meal. And we fed them,” said Helen Morgus.

The crew gets monetary donations from community members. And it also gets some donations from the Idaho Food Bank. That sometimes turns the cooking experience into an adventure as cooks try to figure out what to do with what they’ve got. A jar of Moroccan spices, for instance, led to a highly praised  Moroccan Beef casserole.

Some of the favorites, Hickey said, have been the chicken enchiladas, chicken rice and sausage casserole and a shepherd’s pie using Lava Lake Lamb generously donated by the Rev. Kathleen Bean, a pastor at the church.

Hangar Bread has been donating rolls and bread for diners to take home. And Sun Valley’s Village Station donated salad for some of the summer pickups.

 
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Jack and Ryan Tenold like helping with the dinners as a way to give back to the community.
 

Church members volunteer to bake cookies, which has led to an array of cookies from blonde brownies to giant snickerdoodles.

Those who have availed themselves of the meals include shuttle drivers who drive workers home to Twin Falls or Fairfield. It includes young families with children. And it’s also included young workers who camped out near town during summer because housing was so hard to find.

“It’s nice to be able to offer people the chance to stop and pick up something so they don’t have to worry about what they’re going to cook when they get home from work,” said Gorby.

While it’s easy handing out dinners during summer, winter can prove a little more daunting. It snowed four inches during one giveaway last winter.

“We had to keep popping snow off the roof,” said Hickey. “But we’re hardy.”

DID YOU KNOW?

The Idaho Food Bank typically spends $200,000 a year on food. But, because of the pandemic, they are spending nearly $3.4 million to provide food for various endeavors like Ketchum Community Dinner and The Hunger Coalition.

Even canned food prices have increased 30 percent, according to KTVB.

Want to donate? Send your check to St. Thomas Episcopal Church at Box 1070, Sun Valley, ID 83353. Mark it for Ketchum Community Dinners.

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