Thanksgiving and other holidays are generally a time when families come together around a table to enjoy a meal and each other’s company. For those who don’t have the time or ability to do this with their families, however, organizations on the lower Kenai Peninsula have come together to offer community Thanksgiving meals that bring a different meaning to the holiday.
It has become increasingly popular over the years for people who do not live near their families to participate in “Friendsgiving,” a gathering of non-family members to share a meal and celebrate the holiday. This can be especially true in Alaska, where many younger people have moved to live and work on their own.
Other times, traditional hosts of Thanksgiving have no one to invite, or simply don’t have the same time and energy they once did. Whatever the reason, there is a population each year without a home to visit on Thanksgiving, which is why churches and other organizations make a home within their walls.
In Homer, people gathered to enjoy turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole and all the traditional fixin’s this year at Homer United Methodist Church and the Homer Elks Lodge. Thanksgiving meals were also hosted at the Anchor Point VFW post, at the Homer Senior Center and at the Linwood Bar & Grill in Seldovia.
At the Elks Lodge, Harry “Al” Olson did the majority of the cooking this year. A 40-year member of the Elks, Olson said he has been involved in putting on the Thanksgiving feast for the last five or six years.
What originally started as a meal put on for veterans and active duty military members has grown to include the entire community, he said. Some years there are fewer people who pass through, while other years the Elks will see 20-30 attendees from the Coast Guard post in Homer alone.
At the Homer United Methodist Church, volunteers doled out the goodies while attendees were treated to piano playing by Lindianne Sarno and 14-year-old Lion Trejo. Pastor Lisa Talbott said about 10 volunteers worked to put the event on this year with another 20 or so contributing by cooking and dropping off food dishes. Not all of the volunteers are with the church, either, she said.
“It’s for people to have a place to go if they don’t want to cook an entire meal by themselves, but love Thanksgiving but don’t want to deal with all the cooking or the leftovers,” Talbott said. “For people who are empty nesters, who have small kids, or just folks who, like a lot of Alaskans, are far from their families. It gives us a chance to get to know our neighbors and just build community with each other.”