Volunteers again serve free Thanksgiving Day ‘Feast’

Learn about an annual uplifting event that the volunteers say fills them with good holiday cheer …

Raylene Goodwin, Andrea Macias, Eric Parra, and Emily Macias – all of them with Mt. Scott Church of God – serve coffee to the guests waiting for the annual outer East Portland “Feast for Southeast” to commence.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

For an unprecedented eighth year in a row, one and all were invited to the Thanksgiving Day “Feast for Southeast”, held this year on November 23, at the Mt. Scott Community Center.

Dozens of volunteers come to set up and spend the day in service to their community on this holiday, led by the two chief organizers carrying on the traditional communal dinner: Chef Mel Payne, and chief event organizer Kendall Palmer.

Welcoming guests at the check-in desk are Nicole Gibson and Sadie Hanks.

At the front door, greeting guests, is Gather Portland leader and Feast organizer Kendall Palmer – here welcoming Ryen Beliditto, who came with his family.

“I’ve been here since the very beginning; I started out just doing decorations for this the first year, but as the originating couple stepped back from it, I slowly but surely picked up more responsibility,” Palmer told East Portland News, minutes before the doors opened at 1:00 p.m. Thanksgiving afternoon.

While they served a complete Thanksgiving dinner to some 500 people – from all walks of life – Palmer observed, “It’s not about the numbers for us; what we talk about most is that we’re doing this to help make positive connections in our community.”

Guests are served a freshly-cooked top quality Thanksgiving Dinner by this group of volunteers.

More than simply enjoying a good meal and being given personal comfort supplies, Palmer added, “this afternoon is actually about providing human connections and conversation our ‘table hosts’ and servers here today. In this way, we build our community, and break down barriers.”

Volunteers in this annual event went on to create an organization they call “Gather Portland”, a nonprofit umbrella that will host additional events and projects, Palmer said – “All with the focus and goal of creating connection, community, and caring for everyone.”

Chef Mel Payne, now in her third year of preparing the feast, spends a moment with her crew – Marie Manuel, Joe Payne, Michelle Hall, Jade Segura, and Summer Michaud-Skog.

As other volunteers set up the dining room and prepared to welcome the guests, Chef Mel Payne worked with her crew to make ready the final food preparations.

“Because I don’t have a big family here to enjoy Thanksgiving Day with, I enjoy spending my time here is serving the community; my crew is my family today – in fact my brother, partner, and two of my best friends helped make this dinner,” Payne said.

“We really ‘killed it’ this year; this dinner is the best one of the three years we’ve been involved,” Payne smiled.

The dining room fills with guests who enjoy a bountiful dinner.

The food crew cooked 18 turkeys and 11 hams; made 120 pounds of mashed potatoes, 50 pounds of Brussels sprouts with sautéed onions and red peppers, and 50 pounds of sweet potatoes – as well as gallons of gravy, plus a vegetarian protein for those requiring it.

During the meal, volunteers brought beverages to the diners, along with refills.

Serenading the diners from the stage is Slim Bacon.

Volunteers Kasey Anderson and Kyle Boyd head out into the dining room with another tray of desserts.

In a side room, three volunteers worked before and during the meal, cutting and plating slices of pie that a half-dozen volunteers delivered to diners at their tables.

Main sponsors of this year’s Feast include Southeast Uplift, KitchenCru culinary prep space, New Seasons Markets, Pacific Coast Fruit Company, and Great Harvest Bread – plus dozens of donors.

Diners Zi and Hope say they’re thankful for a wonderful meal, and to be in the company of a warm and caring community.

“We are looking for people to come on board and help build up our leadership – anyone who would like to help at this, or our other events, please let us know,” Palmer said.

Find out more about “Gather Portland” at their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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