The dining room of the Eppson Center for Seniors was buzzing with conversation and laughter as residents of all ages enjoyed the 26th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday.
Included were all the fixings — from turkey to stuffing, cranberry sauce to pumpkin pie — and each year the meal is completely free.
People without anyone to eat with, or who just simply don’t feel like cooking a big turkey, are all invited to the dinner each year, whether they’re seniors or not.
“We don’t want anybody to be alone on Thanksgiving or without a Thanksgiving meal,” said dinner co-chair Janice Sexton.
Dinner patron and Eppson Center member Elizabeth McKinnon noted many folks may be single or without family in town to eat with.
“I don’t have any family around in Laramie,” she said. “So, it’s nice to come here and have some fellowship and good food.”
The dinner expected about 350 people to visit the dining room and be served a meal. Unlike the buffet-style used in the dinner’s early years, volunteers now serve patrons’ food at the tables.
“We’ll serve until we run out of food,” Sexton said.
For those unable to make it to the Eppson Center, home-delivered meals were also available. This year the event delivered a record number of 170 meals to residents around town. They were only expecting 100.
A meal by the community, for the community, volunteers spent Wednesday night deboning all 33 turkeys, which were cooked in the high school cafeteria.
The majority of the turkeys are donated by Toyota of Laramie through the annual Turkey Curling event at the Laramie Ice and Events Center. Although a Zamboni issue prevented the turkey curling event from happening this year, they were still donated.
The Hilton Garden Inn, Corona Village and the Iron Skillet also donated turkeys. In fact, the majority of food the community dinner serves is donated from around the community.
Beyond donations of food, Sexton said over 75 volunteers also donate their time to a be part of the event.
First-year volunteer Stephanie Rostad said she decided to join her boyfriend and his family volunteering this year since her family was out of town. The number of volunteers, she said, demonstrates what Laramie is all about.
“I think it just shows people’s willingness to help out,” she said. “We’re all kind of one big small town. … I would like to do this more and maybe get involved in other community events.”
She added events like the dinner create “a sense of community” where “people can go see friends and family.”
Thanksgiving can mean a lot of things to different people, but one common theme amongst dinner patrons and volunteers was “being grateful for everything we have.”
McKinnon she was grateful for “all the blessings we have, family, friends, good food that we have and our country and our freedoms.”
Similarly, Rostad said Thanksgiving is all about family and “being able to help others.”