Community Dinner welcomes all

Organizers report donation need is great
By: Gloria Young,
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Community Thanksgiving Dinner

When: Noon to 2 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 22
Where: Placer Building, Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., Auburn
Cost: Free
For meal delivery: Call (530) 888-1303
Donations: Make check payable to the Salvation Army and specify Thanksgiving Dinner, P.O. Box 4088, Auburn 95604

For Angela Atteberry, the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner showcases the special qualities of Auburn.

“There are a lot of aspects to it I enjoy,” said Atteberry, who coordinates the dinner with her husband, George.  “It touches my heart to be able to know and see people come and enjoy fellowship with one another and have a good meal. I don’t care who you are or what you have. I want this to be a blessing in your life. … I feel very privileged to be able do this. I don’t take this lightly.”
The decades-old tradition brings together approximately 800 people at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, with another 300 or so meals home delivered to shut-ins and those unable to attend, according to Ken Tokutomi, chairman of the Auburn Salvation Army advisory board, which sponsors the dinner and fundraises for it.
Twenty years ago, when the Salvation Army took it over, the cost to put on the dinner was $6,000. He estimates this year’s cost will be $12,000.  Auburn Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs make generous donations and the Placer County Board of Supervisors gives $1,500 from its revenue-sharing program. Most of the rest comes from individuals.
“Last year we raised about $13,000,” Tokutomi said. “If we have money left over, we use it to buy equipment for next year. We buy warming pans and stuff like that — stuff we use for the dinner instead of having to go out and borrow it.”
Donations are still needed for the dinner and checks should be made out to The Salvation Army – Thanksgiving dinner, Tokutomi said.
Approximately 300 volunteers do meal preparation, serving, delivery and clean-up. And there’s no shortage of people wanting to help. In fact, it’s often a matter of finding enough tasks for everyone, he said.
Cooks prepare dozens of turkeys. Among the other menu items are stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, Jell-O and deviled eggs.
“It’s a first-rate meal,” Tokutomi said.
For dessert there are “all kinds of pies.”
 “We get donations from Ikeda’s, Flower Garden — most come from Machado’s and Ikeda’s and we buy some pies, too,” he said.
There’s entertainment, too. Encore Music provides the speaker system.
One of Tokutomi’s joys of putting on the free dinner is that it is open to everyone in Auburn.
“We’ve had city council people, stalwarts of the community,” Tokutomi said. “We do serve the homeless and needy — and we serve people who could go out should they choose to. That’s really the beauty of it…. It’s a lot of work putting it together. The satisfaction is when I’m exhausted at my house and realizing we’ve done a great thing.”
It’s also a very satisfying endeavor for the Atteberrys, who have overseen the dinner for nearly a decade. Their work begins a month or two ahead of time with calls to key volunteers to make sure they are available.
“There are volunteers who show up every year and have been doing it for a long time,” Angela Atteberry said. “We don’t have a database of people, but they show up and know what to do.”
She also prepares the shopping list and makes sure everything arrives where it should and on time.
George Atteberry is in charge of entertainment and scheduling.
“Then there’s equipment,” Angela Atteberry said. “We’re pretty self-sufficient but there are still some things we borrow — large restaurant equipment.”
The traditional menu has only needed minor tweaks over time.
“Sometimes in quantities of things and some ingredients,” she said. “This is covered by donations and I’m mindful of how much we have to work with. Everything is made from scratch. It is an incredibly tasty, first-class Thanksgiving feast.”
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