Fifth annual ‘Feast’ celebrated in Southeast

Take a look at this community celebration – centered around providing a Thanksgiving Day dinner for everyone who comes …

Welcoming guests to the 2014 Feast for Southeast in the Mt. Scott Community Center are volunteers Karen Finlayson and Andrew Kalicke.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Scores of volunteers pitched in on Thanksgiving Day, as did dozens more on the evening before, to bring about the fifth annual community dinner – the Feast for Southeast – at the Mt. Scott Community Center.

Feast for Southeast is a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring people to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors, explained Project Manager Maria Holmes about the event.

Greeters moved guests in from the cold quickly – giving each person a dinner ticket, and helping them queue up in the hallway, next to the gymnasium, waiting their turn to be served.

Wine and Growl sous chef Forest Moher and Chef Joshua Daley spend a moment with Feast for Southeast Project Manager Maria Holmes.

Holmes said a core group of about ten volunteers start “thinking about Thanksgiving Day in July. I know, we’re little bit crazy – but in a good way!

“We absolutely love having our community come together to share a meal,” Holmes told East Portland News. I feel that, in our society, we don’t have very many opportunities to do that. Coming together, over a meal, on Thanksgiving Day, is the reason so many people are drawn to help out with this project.”

Diners, from all walks of life, gather for a Thanksgiving Day dinner.

She said that the community dinner is not a “soup kitchen” set up for the homeless and those people who are down on their luck.

“No, absolutely not,” Holmes emphasized. “We have people from all walks of life; business owners, families with children, the elderly, that don’t want to spend Thanksgiving day by themselves – students who can’t go home for Thanksgiving – everybody. Everyone comes here to connect with one another, over a meal.”

There was no shortage of volunteers. “We had 1,100 people inquire online about being a volunteer this year,” reported Holems. “About 200 people will be working today’s event, from beginning to end.”

Volunteers serve generous portions to guests,during this year’s Feast for Southeast dinner.

In charge of cooking the meal again this year was Chef Joshua Daley, of Southwest Portland’s Wine and Growl restaurant. “We are estimating, based on growth from last year, that we will be serving close to 900 meals today.”

Daily prepared a substantial shopping list for his meal, which included:

  • Turkey – 350 pounds
  • Ham – 200 pounds
  • Bread – 500 pounds for stuffing – not including celery, carrots, onions, and herbs
  • Turkey gravy – 20 gallons

Daley said his kitchen doesn’t have “cooking power” tor a meal of this size, so he enlisted the aid of a friend, the executive chef at downtown Portland’s famed Brasserie Montmarte – which is where they “cooked all night, and into the morning” preparing the enormous dinner.

Cassandra Ramirez clearly is enjoying her dinner.

Guitarist Jim Dorman entertains, playing lively Holiday tunes.

As guests dined on a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner, complete with side dishes and disserts, volunteers from the music community serenaded the diners.

However, there is a “giving” element to the event, too, Holmes pointed out. As part of it, starting in the second year, they organized a “new stocking” collection drive called “Socks for Southeast”, which, the following year, was renamed “Project Warmth”.

Guests who need them pick out new clothing items that were collected during the “Project Warmth” drive.

The dining room is again decorated with art created by students from volunteer Mike Palmer’s classes at Ardenwald Elementary School; meantime, Kendall Palmer’s students at Alder Creek Middle School led the drive to collect 800 books for “Project Bookworm”.

“We collect new and unused socks, hats, scarves, and gloves that are distributed to members of our community who want and need them, at our dinner,” Holmes explained. “And adding to it, new this year is ‘Project Bookworm’. Brand-new and ‘gently used’ books were donated by Alder Creek Middle School students, in Milwaukie, and other organizations. The idea is to give books to people of all ages.”

As part of Thanksgiving Day this year, volunteers borrowed furniture from the Community Warehouse and set up a big “living room” in the Mt. Scott Community Center gymnasium, with sofas, chairs, and tables. “Here, we hope to continue our concept of building community,” Holmes said. “After our guests have finished their meals, they can come here and play table games, or sit and read books, and have a nice day, just like you would at home.”

It’s not a complete Thanksgiving Day dinner without pie, being brought in by volunteer Bethany McCullough.

“I’m so happy to have a place to come, eat a wonderful hot meal, and be with other people today,” said guest Mildred Schmidt. “This event is truly a gift of love.”

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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