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Date of Issue: December 03, 2008

Islanders thankful for giving

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Turkey was on the table in many Island homes and restaurants Nov. 27.

Thanksgiving is about fellowship, said Laverne Raisch as she gathered with about 15 women to help prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Roser Memorial Community Church.

Thanksgiving, she said, is about sharing.

And Thanksgiving is about cooking, added Raisch, whose holiday specialty is a cranberry salad with oranges and apples — and certainly some sugar.

On Thanksgiving day, with the help of Raisch and many other volunteers, Roser hosted the public for a traditional dinner — roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and a spread of homemade desserts.

The dinner lasted about two hours.

The preparation began several weeks earlier with volunteers gathering in the church kitchen to prepare the sweet potatoes and the mashed potatoes.

Just the making of the mashed potatoes takes a morning, with about 15 volunteers washing, peeling, boiling and mashing 50 pounds of potatoes before adding the sour cream for richness and salt and pepper for flavor.

“I just felt like I wanted to do something to help, for the community and the church, for somebody other than myself,” said Sandy Dahl as she peeled potatoes for the holiday feast.

She joined in a group of volunteers in the Roser kitchen who, as they worked, talked about good books, scandalous television shows, sensational recipes and whether to buy more Idaho russets or Yukon gold potatoes.

Dahl helped with the Roser dinner on Thanksgiving, but also made a Thanksgiving dinner at her Bradenton home for her family. Her house specialties include her creamed spinach and a coleslaw recipe from her former mother-in-law.

Though a lot of work takes place in advance, the day before the holiday and the morning of Thanksgiving bring a flurry of activity at Roser. In the 24 hours leading up to the 2 p.m. dinner, volunteers arrange chairs and tables, set places, carry in desserts and prepare the casseroles, gravy, stuffing and turkeys — which are cooked at volunteers’ homes and brought in Thanksgiving morning for carving.

“The day before is a big day,” said Edna Sinnott, who coordinates the whole effort — and that’s not a management position but rather a hands-on job.

Jean Knopp has volunteered to help with Thanksgiving at Roser for five years.

“I think it’s a great idea to have a community dinner,” she said.

Knopp volunteered on each of the three Wednesdays prior to the holiday and then Thanksgiving morning, when she arrived with pies.

“It’s my favorite holiday,” she said. “I do enjoy cooking and I am thankful — for our health, both my husband and I.”

Ann Jones has volunteered to help prepare four Thanksgiving dinners at the church.

“Helping, it’s kind of the name of the game when you are here six months out of the year,” said the part-time Islander.

She arrived for the season on Anna Maria Island on Oct. 26 and quickly signed up for the Thanksgiving crew.

“It’s important to have a dinner and celebrate together,” Jones said. “I’m thankful this year for family, friends and community. I feel very fortunate.”

The Annie Silver Community Center in Bradenton Beach also hosted a community dinner on Thanksgiving. An open invitation went out to the public two weeks before, inviting guests to bring a dish to share.

“Thanksgiving is such a community holiday,” said Bradenton Beach resident and city employee Lisa Marie Phillips. “So we all get together and we have a real banquet. It’s a way for us to know our neighbors.”

Others on the Island celebrated in their homes or at local restaurants, including Cafe on the Beach, which offered a casual crowd of holiday celebrants a turkey and all-the-trimmings buffet.

On Thanksgiving Eve, Islanders celebrated the holiday with an All Island Denominations service at Roser Memorial Community Church in Anna Maria.    

The Rev. Stephen King delivered the sermon, “Give Thanks.” And members of all six Island churches contributed to the musical component of the program.