Thanksgiving was a community event on the mountain

Dec 2, 2021 | Crestline

Staff Writer

The 2021 Crestline community Thanksgiving dinner went very smoothly after two years of cancellations and many willing volunteer hands. This annual dinner is coordinated by the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club as its gift to the community and is both well supported by the community members and appreciated by community members.

The annual Thanksgiving dinner was canceled in 2019 a few days in advance by Rotary President Gaston Maya as weather forecasts correctly predicted a massive storm would arrive exactly on Thanksgiving Day. After he consulted with other community leaders, he canceled the dinner so no one would get injured coming to a dinner or delivering meals to shut-ins.

He returned from Alabama to help with this year’s meal, saying, “I am so happy to be a part of this year’s meal, for this is family to me, and if Elizabeth will do the yearly trek, I’m coming back every year. It’s the community coming together. I’ve missed this.” Last year the dinner was also cancelled due to COVID.

Bill Mellinger gave extra kudos to the head chef Emily Messina, who stepped up to coordinate the meal, after reading a request from Virginia Paleno on Facebook looking for a head chef. She was quite effective as the coordinating of cooking 97 turkeys in three ways – deep fat frying, smoked in the huge smoker and roasted – is quite an accomplishment in itself but also coordinating all the sides – the mashed potatoes, the gravy, the sweet potatoes, the dressing plus dessert – for almost 1,000 is amazing.

Messina attended culinary school at Orange Coast College and has 20 years’ experience in catering. She is currently a surgical tech at Mountains Community Hospital. After doing all this cooking and coordinating for the community, she left the next morning on her honeymoon to Cancun with her new husband, Vince, who was there also helping with the meal.

This year numerous businesses and agencies sponsored the free holiday dinner, including Goodwin and Son’s Market, The Lake Gregory Company, the Crestline Sanitation District, Lake View Realty and Mick Hill Enterprises. Also, contributing to the dinner were the Lions Club of Crestline, the Lake Arrowhead Rotary Club, the ROTW VFW Auxiliary #9324, Blue Jay Yoga Class, the Crest Forest Senior Citizens Club, Rubyray Graphics and Supervisor Janice Rutherford. The Rhilinger family, Susan Wilcox, Karl Drew, Eric Stone, the Bancroft family, Laura J. McBride and the Lanyon-LeSage family also donated to the dinner.

Recognition was given to behind-the-scene volunteers from the Woodlands Bible Church and Lake Gregory Community Church and the students of the Early Act Club of Valley of Enchantment School, who made the table turkey decorations. During the whole four hours, the dining room was filled with happy diners. At the end, they still had some leftovers which they donated to some shelters as they have in past years.

“This was the community getting together to make a community meal for all the members of the community, a real volunteer community effort for the benefit of any community member who desired to participate. It is a beautiful thing to see and to experience,” said Mellinger.

For delivery of holiday meals to the shut-ins and those who needed delivery, another group that has provided such service for over 15 years, headed by Tanya Michel and Jack Cooperman, again stepped up and helped those people unable to get out to the San Moritz Lodge to have dinner. This year they served and packaged from the kitchen at the Twin Peaks Masonic Center using Paula as their main chef again.

“Paula makes everything flow so almost effortlessly and efficiently,” Cooperman said. They started on Tuesday doing the pies and other food items in advance, getting everything prepped, including the gifts they put in each box. On Tuesday and Wednesday evening they had kids and adults making the holiday gifts for the recipients.

Michel said they cooked for 170, preparing 30 turkeys in total. Cooperman arrived at 5:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving to cut up the turkeys for the dinners. They had mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, veggies, dressing, cranberries, rolls and butter and pie – everything expected for a full Thanksgiving meal. They also delivered whole turkeys with the fixings to the sheriff’s station for those on duty.

Members of the Rim National Honor Society were there on Thanksgiving morning to pack the boxes for those who had ordered the meals. The drivers from Meals on Wheel and others came between 10 and 10:30 a.m. and distributed all the meals prior to noon.

Some of the Rim honor society volunteers were Olivia Reed, the chapter president, Kayla Carroll, Zarahi Perez, Diane Shang and Rebecca Viramontes.

One recipient of the delivered dinner, Tessa Dick, said there was enough delicious food for a whole family, and it would last several days with leftovers. Cooperman said each free meal was intended to be at least two days of meals, since the Meals on Meals would not be delivering on Friday.

The Stockade restaurant in Crestline put out their annual free Thanksgiving buffet with turkey, ham, green beans, corn, dressing, mashed potatoes, yams and rolls. “We’ve been doing this free dinner for over a decade,” said Michel. “It feels good to know that anyone and everyone will get a good meal for Thanksgiving. That is what this is all worth it.”

Greg and Branna Bloomfield had the dinner at the Stockade and were all smiles, saying, “We are grateful; it’s such a beautiful tradition here. This whole town is full of such generosity on this day of thanksgiving.”

Some folks in Running Springs whose power was proactively turned off due to the high winds went to the dinner at the San Moritz. Others barbecued their turkeys and still other attended the annual dinner put on by the Golden Oaks Seniors.



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