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Free Thanksgiving meal returns for less fortunate

PLATTSBURGH - Turkey? Check. Stuffing? Check. Cranberry sauce? Check. Enough food for more than 300 people? You'd better believe it.

Though Thanksgiving is the time of year many are preparing for small family gatherings around the dinner table, it's also the time of year the Plattsburgh chapter of The Salvation Army is busily preparing for its own community meal.

"We served about 350 people last year," said kitchen coordinator Marjorie Minckler. "And, we didn't run out of anything."

The local Salvation Army chapter has been hosting the dinner for several years, each time putting on a spread aimed at providing a free holiday meal to the less fortunate.

"I feel very good about it," Minckler said of hosting the meal. "I love to cook and I love to serve. That's why I do what I do at the Salvation Army."

Last Thanksgiving was Minckler's first time overseeing the community meal, assisted by her daughter, Lilian LaPier, who also works at the local Salvation Army. Both were overwhelmed by the turnout.

"It's amazing how many people came out," said LaPier. "You don't realize how many people come to it until they're all there."

"I'm happy everybody gets to go to it," said Minckler. "And, I'm glad I'm a part of it."

Preparation for the meal typically begins three to four weeks in advance, said Minckler, with she and LaPier knee-deep in last-minute food prep.

"We're working on squash and stuffing and doing all the upcoming preparations for the meal," Minckler said last week as she stood in the kitchen at the South Catherine Street Salvation Army center.

"We've been working on squash all day, and we've only got three pans done," said LaPier, laughing.

Donations from the community have begun to pour in for the meal, which relies heavily on the generosity of people in the North Country. The preplanned menu will consist of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, squash, cranberry sauce, apple crisp, apple pie, pumpkin pie, cheese and crackers, pepperoni and dinner rolls.

Currently, Minckler said she is in need of more hams, canned vegetables and pies, if people are willing to donate them. Monetary donations are also accepted to help offset the cost of the meal.

"Every little bit helps," she said.

The meal will be hosted at Elks Lodge 621, 56 Cumberland Ave., next Thursday, Nov. 25, beginning at 12 p.m. Seating will begin at 11:30 a.m.

Transportation will be provided to and from the Salvation Army and Plattsburgh Housing Authority senior living complexes.

Those interested in donating toward the event or volunteering may call 561-2951.

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