A High Country Thanksgiving

Article Published: Nov. 17, 2011 | Modified: Nov. 17, 2011
A High Country Thanksgiving

Earth Fare’s Tara Stollenmaier is helping coordinate the store’s ‘Give. Thanks.’ Thanksgiving
Photos by Ashley Wilson

“We’re all a part of the human community.”

That’s the mantra of Todd Carter, the new development director at the Hospitality House of Boone.

His job entails dissipating divisions amongst different populations, specifically larger society and the homeless. He seeks to dissolve the lines drawing the rich against the poor, the haves against the have-nots.

If there’s one day when it can absolutely happen, it’s Thanksgiving Day.

Carter and the Hospitality House are one of many people and organizations in the High Country working to bridge different segments of the population during the holiday season.

Through events put on by the Hospitality House, the Hunger and Health Coalition and several others, people of all backgrounds will come together, eat, give and be merry.

A Community Thanksgiving Tradition

The Hunger and Health Coalition of Boone will host its 26th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the First Baptist Church of Boone. The meal will be served in the fellowship hall from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

The Thanksgiving Dinner is one of the longest-running holiday events in the High Country.

Compton Fortuna, executive director of the Hunger Coalition, said the organization started serving the meal as an extension of its mission to provide food assistance to low-income individuals and families.

“It gives us a way to help the community, to bring the community together, so that people can interact and share a holiday meal,” she said.

The desire for a traditional holiday meal with turkey and all the trimmings is in demand; hundreds come to First Baptist each year to receive a plate.

“We served about 450 meals last year,” Fortuna said. “At least half of those were take-outs that we delivered to homebound people in the community.”

The free dinner is open to anyone who wants or needs a meal. It is available for dine-in, take-out or delivery by Hunger Coalition volunteers.

The event is attended by a diversity of people, including families, individuals, those who cannot travel to be with family and those who do not have the means to prepare or purchase food for the holiday. It can be pretty costly to put on a Thanksgiving meal, Fortuna said, and the Hunger Coalition seeks to ease the burden.

For Fortuna and many others, the event has become a holiday tradition.

“I go every year,” she said. “I take my kids. There are a lot of families that bring children, and there are a lot of families that have been doing it every year.”

She said the dinner is a festive and pleasant experience.

“There’s a lot of conversation, and it’s very upbeat,” she said. “We usually have somebody that plays the piano, somebody usually shows up with a guitar and sings Christmas carols. It’s certainly not a solemn occasion. We really want to make people feel special and to take their mind off all the things that might be burdening them and treat them to a very nice dinner.”

The Hunger Coalition Community Thanksgiving Dinner is made possible by the help of more than 50 volunteers and donations from several local restaurants. Woodland’s Barbecue is providing much of the food, with Makoto’s Japanese Steakhouse and Bojangle’s also making contributions.

First Baptist Church of Boone is located at 375 W. King St. in downtown Boone. For more information, call the Hunger and Health Coalition at (828) 262-1628.

Catering to the Community

The faith community, private business and a nonprofit organization are uniting to serve up a free Thanksgiving dinner at Alliance Bible Fellowship from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The meal is being organized and distributed by Green Street Catering, a not-for-profit food business, for a second consecutive year.

The food will be available in the Alliance Bible Fellowship dining area. People can eat on site or take it with them. Meals will also be prepared for people who would like to pick them up and deliver to them to others in the community.

Chastity Lesesne, who runs Green Street Catering, said she just wants people to know there’s a hot meal waiting for anyone who needs it. Her company provides a free community meal at the church every Thursday. While some may find Lesesne’s business model curious, she said it’s all about service to the community.

“It’s as simple as what I’m saying,” she said. “There’s a heart that really wants to serve this awesome community, and we just love it. I know that God has called me to do this.”

In addition to the meal, 150 baskets have been prepared with Thanksgiving items, including Earth Fare turkeys. The baskets are being distributed to people in need within the community.

The Earth Fare turkeys being used for the meals and baskets are provided through donations from the grocery store’s patrons. In the month of November, customers checking out have had the option of making a contribution to the “Give.Thanks.” program. Small donations and purchases of full turkeys have resulted in more than 30 birds being made available to the Green Street Catering event.

Tara Stollenmaier, community relations coordinator at Earth Fare of Boone, said she is excited that the store and its customers are coming together to make Thanksgiving possible for people who may not otherwise have an option.

“We do a lot in giving to the community, and this is just one more day,” she said. “It’s fun, and it gets the community involved in the season of giving, and it gives a healthier product.”

Earth Fare will continue accepting contributions to the program through the day before Thanksgiving. In addition to Green Street Catering, turkeys will be donated to families through Watauga County Social Services.

Alliance Bible Fellowship is located at 1035 N.C. 105 Bypass in Boone. For more information about the event and Green Street Catering, call (828) 278-2050.

Earth Fare is located at 178 W. King St. in downtown Boone. For more information on the “Give.Thanks.” program, call (828) 263-8138.

A New Dish at the Thanksgiving Table

Combine charity and a workout with the first High Country Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning from 8 to 10 a.m. The 5K-style event takes place along the Greenway in Boone.

The Turkey Trot benefits the Hospitality House, which provides assistance to people in a seven-county region that are experiencing homelessness or crisis and poverty situations.

Todd Carter planned the Turkey Trot to emulate other charity runs around the country that happen on or around Thanksgiving Day. The fun-filled event is meant to attract athletes, families and anyone who wants to support the Hospitality House.

“We’re trying to make this a destination for folks on Thanksgiving and competitive runners,” he said.

The 3.7-mile Turkey Trot starts with an untimed race at 8 a.m., followed by a non-competitive event at 8:30 a.m. Participants in the second portion of the event can go the full length of the trot or opt for the Drumstick, a shorter, circular track.

Carter said the Turkey Trot is tailored so that everyone can participate. “Walk the dog, push the stroller, bring the wheelchair,” he said.

More than 100 people have registered so far, including High Country residents and people who are visiting family or vacationing in the area over the holidays. Carter said he has received registrations from as far away as Florida and Ohio.

Carter encourages parents to bring their children to the Turkey Trot and engage them in the spirit of giving. Younger people will enjoy themselves and will be stimulated to participate in future charitable activities, he said.

“It’s about trying to show your kids that giving back to your community, helping your community, is a fun thing to do,” he said. “We want to grow honorable, charitable little citizens. It’s never too early to start.”

Anyone wanting to participate in the Turkey Trot and is unable to afford the registration fee need not worry, Carter said, because an anonymous donor has stepped up and is willing to cover the cost for families in need.

“We want to make sure it’s open to everyone, even folks that are just barely making it,” he said.

Those attending the Turkey Trot are encouraged to bring food and non-food donations. Non-perishables, gift cards and items like diapers and clothing can be dropped off at the Hospitality House, which serves as the mid-way point of the trot.

The cost for the Turkey Trot is $20 for adults and teens, $10 for children 12 and younger, and children younger than 5 are admitted free. There is no deadline to register, and registration can be done upon arrival at the event. Participants will receive a commemorative Turkey Trot T-shirt, while supplies last.

The starting point for the Turkey Trot is the Boone Greenway entrance near the National Guard Armory, located at 274 Hunting Hills Lane in Boone. The drop-off point for donations is the Hospitality House, located at 338 Brook Hollow Road in Boone.

More information and registration is online at http://www.hospitalityhouseofboone.org or by calling (828) 264-1237.

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