Powell Rallies for Community Thanksgiving

Volunteers plan to serve free turkey dinners to hundreds at fairgrounds

Seth Carter and son, Titus, help Larry Akin, far left, load supplies Monday in preparation for a community Thanksgiving dinner in Powell. (Courtesy photo from Larry Akin)

By Ruffin Prevost

Special to the Wyoming Truth

CODY, Wyo. — Even the most accomplished cooks can be intimidated when preparing a multi-course Thanksgiving meal. It’s tricky to bake a turkey that is juicy but also golden brown, whip up mashed potatoes free of lumps and make stuffing that is moist but crispy on top.

Pulling all that together, along with the other trimmings and dessert for a dozen or more people, can be a daunting task. Imagine doing it for a guest list of 500.

That’s the challenge a group of self-organized volunteers face tomorrow when they come together to continue a tradition started over two decades ago, serving a community Thanksgiving meal to anyone who wants one.

Larry Akin picks up supplies Monday from Hickory Street Bistro & Catering owner Danielle Dearcorn for a community Thanksgiving dinner in Powell. (Courtesy photo from Larry Akin)

The dinner began at Powell’s First United Methodist Church as a way to serve international students and others at Northwest College who were spending Thanksgiving in Powell, away from friends and family. It has since grown into a large-scale gathering open to everyone.

In recent years, the mid-day meal had been provided by the Powell Ministerial Association. But that organization announced earlier this month that it would not be able to serve diners this year.

So Powell resident Larry Akin and dozens of others in the community decided to get together and make the event happen anyway.

“That’s when my wife and I knew that if we can provide some guidance and some leadership, this community will step up and it will happen,” Akin said. “We just believed in the people.”

The people, it turns out, did step up. Akin said he has been in touch with “literally hundreds of people” who have donated funds, food, labor and expertise.

A retired dentist, Akin, 67, said he has the time to help with the event. He has  served as a volunteer at the dinner over the past few years, along with wife Maurine, so they have experience with logistics and realize how important the meal is for attendees.

“We just knew by volunteering that this meal is needed, it’s wanted and it is appreciated,” he said.

Some people who are struggling financially appreciate the meal as a small boost, particularly in light of inflationary food costs, Akin said. Those spending the holiday alone are grateful for the fellowship and connections with others.

Community members have sourced dozens of turkeys for a Thanksgiving dinner in Powell, with food and supplies provided at wholesale cost from Danielle Dearcorn, whose catering company also cooks holiday turkeys for clients. (Courtesy photo from Danielle Dearcorn)

Organizers aren’t sure how many will attend this year’s dinner. Typically, approximately 500 people show up. But that number climbed to 600 in 2021, and the largest crowd was around 750.

“This is a community dinner, provided by the citizens of Powell for the community of Powell,” Akin said. “However, if somebody needs a Thanksgiving meal and is going to be alone, they are welcome to join us.” 

As of Monday, volunteers had sourced 29 turkeys and 10 hams, along with a mountain of potatoes. The menu also will include beans, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, broccoli salad and an array of pies.

Akin said he was wary of being in the spotlight for the event, and stressed that dozens of others around Powell were also pitching in to make it happen. “There are lots of people behind the scenes and anonymously doing lots of things to help,” he said.

The staff of tractor and farm equipment retailer C&B Operations was working to clean, sterilize and set up dozens of tables and chairs. Hickory Street Bistro & Catering was providing food and other supplies at wholesale cost.

Danielle Dearcorn, owner of Hickory Street Bistro & Catering, helps Larry Akin with supplies for a community Thanksgiving dinner in Powell. (Courtesy photo from Larry Akin)

Hickory Street owner Danielle Dearcorn said she “started donating our time and efforts when we started the business five years ago” for various causes. “It’s part of what keeps us going, renews our spirit and gives back to the community that has helped us get as far as we have.”

Seth Carter is neighbors with Akin and works for a campus ministry that serves students at Northwest College and elsewhere. He has volunteered at past dinners and said they are “a good, fun opportunity to see people in the community.”

“Our family has always enjoyed going down and visiting with people there—single people or older people or just families that don’t have a lot of other family members in the area,” Carter said. He was working along with his son, Titus, and Akin on Monday to pick up supplies and prepare for the dinner.

“To be able to serve others, even in that kind of a small way, I think it is valuable and important,” he said.

All costs for the dinner have been covered, Akin said, and he encouraged those wishing to contribute to instead donate to the Powell Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry or another local food bank.

The Powell Community Thanksgiving Dinner will serve diners from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 23 in Heart Mountain Hall at the Park County Fairgrounds, 655 E. 5th St., Powell, Wyoming. The event is free and open to the public.

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