Anonymous donor gives Thanksgiving to Juneau's needy

Posted: Friday, November 26, 2010

Hopefully the donor of 30 turkeys for the Salvation Army's 18th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Hangar on the Wharf is surrounded by loved ones and smiling, because that is the least of what the donor gave to the roughly 250 people who came to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

"I wish I could give him a hug," 6-year-old Lena Hurt said. "And some pie."

The anonymous donor also provided two cases of stuffing and 40 pounds of potatoes.

Many came because they were homeless, some couldn't afford a meal of this magnitude, some come for companionship and some come just to help.

"He is a long time member of the community," Salvation Army Capt. Jack Smith said. "And he wants to stay anonymous. I need about 50 turkeys each year and he always gives half."

Smith said the unnamed provider makes a similar donation at Christmas, as well.

Sponsored by the Salvation Army, the dinner originated in a church basement years ago. The event has since moved to the Hangar to accommodate increasing attendance.

"We get so much help," Smith said. "The real thing donated though is time. Many volunteers come to help, serve and clean up."

More than 65 servers worked Thursday to distribute the 50-plus turkeys cooked by Dick Hand and Alaska Glacier Seafoods, the multiple pies and cakes from various grocery stores, and to seat the various Juneau residents with a view better than any big screen television football game - the Gastineau Channel and the downtown Juneau waterfront.

"It is something we are just happy to do," Hangar co-owner Rob Sanford said. "It just feels comfortable and good. We had hundreds of phone calls over the last week from people wanting to help."

Diners were from all walks of Juneau life. They joked, met old friends, made new friends and came together as a community.

"We have been given so much that this is really a time to give back," Gov. Sean Parnell said as he served slices of turkey to a steady line of hungry holiday constituents. "I would like to shake (the turkey donor's) hand. This truly shows the love of all Alaskans and that every person on this Earth has that spark of humanity. It is humbling to be here."

Parnell's wife Sandy, along with parents Pat and Thelma, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, joined in donning red aprons to dole out servings of gravy, mashed potatoes and breads.

"Turkey and fruit salad," Thelma said when asked of her son's favorite meal. "And lots of people to share it with."

More than 160 people were served and seated in the first hour. The number would swell to well beyond 200 as the deadline for serving came, was pushed back, and the last hungry citizens received plates. Another 60 meals would be prepared for "shut-ins," those elderly, needy or neighbors who wouldn't have a meal for a multitude of reasons.

"I don't think we have ever run out of tables like this before," event coordinator Tracy Kubley said. "To see the smiles and the well-wishes is what this is all about."

Just blocks away, The Silverbow was preparing full Thanksgiving meals for delivery for those who didn't have the time or couldn't take the time to cook. Staff worked a holiday shift because, manager Kelly Organ said, "Thanksgiving is a time for community."

Captain Jack Smith moved through the diners, shaking hands, visiting and laughing.

"Look at everyone coming together," Smith said. "Rich or poor, it doesn't matter. Just show up with an appetite."

Thanks to an anonymous donor, other generous souls and quite a few hardworking people, Lena Hurt and hundreds of other Juneauites were able to enjoy a meal, companionship or holiday spirit that might not otherwise have been available.

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@

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