Feast in the city

Thanksgiving dinners, boxes define spirit of the community

Posted: Sunday, November 24, 2002

People who can't afford food for a Thanksgiving meal, are unable to cook, or simply don't want to eat alone have many options for celebrating Thursday's holiday. Juneau volunteers, nonprofit groups and restaurants are hosting events to ensure that, at least for a day, nobody goes hungry.

While their forte is Italian cuisine, Al and Nita Soriano, the owners of Jovany's restaurant in the Airport Shopping Center, will serve a free, traditional Thanksgiving meal at their restaurant Thursday. They have hosted the free meal every Thanksgiving since 1993.

"I just feel that I have a little something and I want to share it with other people who don't have family in town," said Nita Soriano. "It's a nice feeling ... people are so nice patronizing us, and I feel like giving something back."

Al Soriano will roast and carve six birds, and other family members will prepare and serve the rest of the meal, which consists of the regular lineup: stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, cornbread and pie. The family members will have eaten their meal before the 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. serving period, and will take Friday off to recover from the effort, said Jim Banner, assistant manager of the restaurant and son-in-law of the Sorianos.

Everybody is welcome at the meal.

"We actually get a really wide mix: people who need company, can't afford it or just don't want to cook," he said.

The same crowd - everybody - is welcome at the Thanksgiving meal sponsored by the Salvation Army and held at the Hangar on the Wharf on Thursday.

"We're open to anyone and everyone for dinner, to volunteer, both," said Salvation Army Maj. Larry Fankhauser.

The meal will begin around 11:30 a.m. and will continue until 2 p.m., or until the food is gone - usually by 1:15, Fankhauser said. Staff of the restaurant will help with the cooking of turkey and its accompaniments; the Alaska Seafood Co. will smoke additional turkeys; the Salvation Army's advisory board and women's auxiliary will serve and clean up after the meal; and all of the pies and desserts will be donated by community members.

"If anybody wishes to donate a dessert, they can bring it to the Salvation Army the day before or to the Hangar that morning anytime after 10:30," Fankhauser said.

Most of the turkeys for the meal were donated by Channel Construction.

For Juneau residents suffering from financial difficulty but who still want to cook at home, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Glory Hole assemble food baskets that contain the makings of a complete meal.

"Every basket that is for one or two adults gets a smaller ham or a turkey breast," said Bridget O'Loughin, who coordinates the Thanksgiving food basket program at St. Vincent's. "Families of three or more receive a full-size turkey, and all baskets have various canned food items such as cranberries, olives, corn, green beans and sweet potatoes."

Boxes also contain stuffing, pre-made pumpkin pies or the ingredients for a homemade pie, a dozen eggs, butter, rolls and fresh potatoes, carrots and onions. St. Vincent's will have all of its 245 baskets ready for pickup on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Students of Honey Smith's Humanities 120 class, called "A Sense of Place," at the University of Alaska Southeast are finding their place in Juneau's philanthropic efforts this year as well. They turned trash they picked up during a United Way Day of Caring event earlier this year into turkeys for the Glory Hole's food boxes.

Eighteen members of the class were paid $14 each by Litter Free Inc., a Juneau nonprofit group, to pick up trash for two hours in September. The class pooled its earnings and discussed ways to spend the money.

"The idea with the money was to redirect it toward a service project that the class could plan and conduct," said Eric Morrison, the teaching assistant who coordinated the effort. The class decided to donate the money to the Glory Hole, and Lance Young, executive director for the shelter, requested the donation be made in the form of turkeys for Thanksgiving meals.

Morrison convinced the UAS student government to match the funds the class collected and Paul Kraft, UAS dean of students, and employees of the student resource center contributed an additional $95 to the effort. The class spent its $595 on 40 turkeys for the shelter, and representatives from the class and the student government delivered the birds to the Glory Hole on Friday afternoon.

"Most of the turkeys we've got have come in from private donations," said Young. He is still accepting donations of canned goods, vegetables and desserts to put in the boxes.

"I'll have to go shopping on Monday to get the boxes filled, so definitely we still want donations," he said.

While Young doesn't imagine he'll receive more donations than he can use in the estimated 200 boxes volunteers and staff will prepare for Thanksgiving, he said he can always use any extra donations in the Christmas boxes.

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.

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