Kachemak Bay Lions Club member Fran Van Sandt, who has coordinated the club’s Thanksgiving Basket program for more than 25 years, directs the orchestra of volunteers it takes to pack baskets back in 2010. Volunteers are needed to help with this year’s basket packing beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Homer United Methodist Church.-Homer News file photo

Kachemak Bay Lions Club member Fran Van Sandt, who has coordinated the club’s Thanksgiving Basket program for more than 25 years, directs the orchestra of volunteers it takes to pack baskets back in 2010. Volunteers are needed to help with this year’s basket packing beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Homer United Methodist Church.-Homer News file photo

Giving thanks: Lots of options to celebrate turkey day


aturday may be the Sabbath, but there’ll be very little resting going on at the Homer United Methodist Church on Nov. 21. 

That’s when the Kachemak Bay Lions Club is hosting its annual Thanksgiving Basket packing event, and a little help is needed.

For more than 30 years, the Lions Club has been distributing complete Thanksgiving meals to people in need. Last year, they gave boxes to 220 different households, each complete with a turkey or chicken, pie filling, cranberry sauce, noodles for leftover turkey soup — the works.

Fran Van Sandt, who’s been coordinating the program for more than 25 years, said Tuesday she had already received 177 applications from needy households, and she still had a thick stack to count.

The whole operation costs between $6,000 and $7,000, Van Sandt says. Most of the funding comes from the community. Though she’s been doing this for a long time, she says that generosity still strikes her:

“I think this community is the most fantastic place in the world to live and there are such giving people.”

But this year donations are significantly down. If the club can’t get the funds together by Saturday, they may have to turn down single people who’ve requested meals.

“It’s heartbreaking because you want to do everybody,” says Van Sandt.

She has some advice for community members interested in helping out: “If you think it’s too late, it’s not.” Monetary donations can be sent to the Lions Club at P.O. Box 1824, Homer, AK 99603. Anyone who wants to donate food directly should bring it to the Methodist Church on Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. — and stick around to help pack, if they can. People who’ve signed up to receive a meal will pick it up between 1 and 2 p.m.

The club also is looking for volunteers to set up the supplies at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Any time spent helping out counts toward community service hours for high school students, Van Sandt points out. 

She says she’s hoping that Saturday morning will bring many more donations and an army of community volunteers ready to offer their basket-filling services. But in case the Lions Club isn’t able to feed everyone who’s hungry on Thanksgiving, there are several other people around town ready to help out.


Glacierview Baptist Church

“We want those who don’t have a place to go or those who can’t afford food to join us for lunch,” says Joni Wise.

She and her husband, Marty Wise, will host a soup kitchen at Glacierview Baptist Church from noon until 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. They’ll serve a dozen different soups, fresh baked breads and desserts, and Joni says there will be games and puzzles for the whole family. Anyone interested in donating food should drop it off at the church around 11 a.m. Thursday morning.


Homer United Methodist Church

The Methodist Church will also be hosting a free meal including two turkeys, a ham, and various side dishes made my members of the congregation. That’s on Thursday night from 4 to 6 p.m. All are invited, and are welcome to bring a dish if they want to – or just come and enjoy, says Pastor Lisa Talbott.  


Down East Saloon

At 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, Down East Saloon is serving up free turkey, ham, homemade cheesy potatoes and pumpkin pie for anyone looking for a warm place to eat well and see some football on TV. As in previous years, the event is a potluck, so attendees are invited, but not required, to bring a dish.


Kharacters Alaskan Bar

Kharacters will also host a potluck beginning at 3 p.m., with free food for anyone who’s hungry. Come ready to eat, whether you have a dish to share or not.


Share the Spirit begins

In typical Homer spirit, the giving doesn’t end with full stomachs on Thursday. 

After Thanksgiving, the public is invited to dive straight into the holiday season with “Share the Spirit,” Homer’s long-time holiday meal and gift drive for families in need.

If you want to “adopt a family” and donate gifts or a holiday meal, applications will be available in the foyer of Wells Fargo Bank starting Monday, Nov. 23. Monetary donations can be dropped off at the bank or mailed to P.O. Box 3218. Anyone experiencing tough times this fall also can find an application for a holiday meal or gifts at Wells Fargo. Applications both to adopt a family and receive donations must be dropped off in the collection box at the bank by Dec. 11.

Starting Nov. 24, a forest of gift trees will begin to pop up in local businesses. “Ornaments” — the wish lists of community members in need — can be picked up by anyone interested in brightening somebody else’s holiday. 

For more info on Share the Spirit, call the helpline: 235-7466.

And on Tuesday, Dec. 8, stop by the Elks Lodge to join in on what is most likely the town’s largest per capita pasta consumption of the year. The Spaghetti Feed is a Share the Spirit fundraiser and long-time Homer tradition, and for good reason – nothing says “happy holidays” better than helping out the community while eating warm food with family and friends. 

Annie Rosenthal can be reached at annie.rosenthal@homernews.com.

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