Volunteers help at 33rd Annual Twin Ports Thanksgiving Buffet – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — There was plenty of food, helping hands, and gratitude at the 33rd Annual Twin Ports Thanksgiving Day Buffet on Thursday. The free community dinner was hosted by the College of St. Scholastica at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

People gathering for community dinner
Volunteer Heather Salfer of Duluth serves corn during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, November 24, 2022 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

Organizers reported a high turnout of volunteers, with a slower than usual start during the event’s first face-to-face gathering since the pandemic began.

“We weren’t sure how many volunteers would be returning after COVID,” said Monica Hendrickson, organizer of the event for the past nine years. “We are thankful for those who came to help. We are also grateful to the community, private donors and corporations. We’ve had a lot of last minute needs and companies have responded to the calls.”

People gathering for community dinner
Nevaeh Eades, 6, of Superior, reacts to Santa’s visit during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

First-year volunteer Jake Jauss of Duluth joined his two sisters, nephew and niece to help out during the event. “It’s a great way to give back to the community,” Jauss said, adding that he plans to return to volunteering next year.

Volunteer dining room coordinator Kris Hershey has helped out with the event over the past few years along with her sister, mother, fiancé, father and brother-in-law, all of whom are involved in organizing the meal.

“Compared to previous years, it’s doing very well,” Hershey said. “We have fabulous volunteers and we have a lot of them. The ham is delicious. You know, some people have a preference, but I haven’t heard any complaints.”

People gathering for community dinner
Ham was served Thursday during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community’s Thanksgiving dinner at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. A turkey shortage prevented the organizers from getting enough turkey for the annual meal.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

On Thanksgiving morning, approximately 1,400 meals were delivered to homebound individuals and their caregivers.

Instead of the usual turkey, ham was served this year as the required 2,000 pounds of turkey could not be pre-ordered due to shortages.

By midday, more and more guests were taking their seats to enjoy the ham dinner, complete with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, vegetables, rolls and pies.

“There’s usually a long line, but it’s getting busier,” Hendrickson said.

Duluth’s Skip VanKessel also gave back. Both he and his wife are graduates of the College of St. Scholastica. With children living in New York and Washington, the couple decided to volunteer their vacation at DECC together.

People gathering for community dinner
Volunteers and guests fill the Lake Superior Ballroom during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

“It’s not as busy as they said it should be, but maybe it’ll get busier. I think part of that was because they’re serving ham this year,” VanKessel said.

Duluth resident Kaye Bergman joined her son and daughter-in-law for dinner. Although she prefers turkey, she was grateful for the opportunity to spend the holidays with family.

“I have been coming here with my son for many years. It was just the two of us and because of the way he worked, I was never able to cook a meal at home because I never know when we can be there,” Bergman said.

People gathering for community dinner
Elliot Kaiser, 8, of Superior, carries a tray full of desserts while volunteering during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

Patty Skube, Rural Living Environments direct support, traveled with her client from Babbitt to the event to meet her family for dinner.

“She comes here every year to meet her father,” Skube said. “As for the free food, I find it unreal. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s great. I’m glad it’s available for everyone.”

Diana Jereczek of Duluth came to DECC to help her son and enjoy the meal with her family after competing in Thursday’s Gobble Gallop 5K. Jereczek is also giving back in many other ways during the holiday, including donating blood and gift-wrapping at the mall.

People gathering for community dinner
Hattie Simone, 5, clears a plate while setting tables during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

“The event is going really well,” she said. “I’m surprised. We expected more people to be there. I don’t know, maybe the food shelves have enough, but I can’t believe it because it seems like everyone at Second Harvest keeps asking for more donations.”

Ruby Wallan of Duluth found out about the free meal through her church and decided to attend with her husband.

“It sounded like a good thing; neither of us cooks,” Wallan said. “I really enjoy life. I’m retired and Duluth is a good place. There is much to do. There are things like this that I think are really worth it. Duluth is my home.”

People gathering for community dinner
Niko Kosandbich, 9 months, of Superior, smiles during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune



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