Volunteers prep tons of turkey for community Thanksgiving feasts

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Volunteers prep tons of turkey for community Thanksgiving feasts

Published Monday, November 21, 2011   |  466 Words  |  

Chefs and volunteers are already prepping food for local community Thanksgiving dinners, where residents can come Thursday for fellowship and a free meal.

The staff at Hudson's Seafood House on Hilton Head Island is hard at work on 80 turkeys, 50 pounds of green beans, 36 gallons of homemade gravy and 30 gallons of cranberry conserve.

Executive chef Chris Carge said he can cook 48 turkeys at once in the restaurant's four ovens, but even with large-scale kitchen equipment, the task is monumental.

"It's quite a process," Carge said. "We started (Sunday), and we pretty much work around the clock from now until Thursday morning."

The meal, organized by St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church, is prepared by the restaurant and staffed by an army of volunteers.

"Every year we serve about 1,400 people," said Gloria LaCoe, one of the organizers. "The only way we could feed more is if people ate faster."

In northern Beaufort County, large quantities of food are arriving at Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort.

Rosalind Dixon, a parish staff member leading preparation for the dinner, said she expects about 80 turkeys, along with several hundred pounds of casseroles and side dishes. The meal will feed about 900 people, including meals to go.

"About half the turkeys come in already cooked, and then we have other people who volunteer," she said. "We have one gentleman who's going to cook 25 turkeys for us in his big grill."

Much of the food will arrive Wednesday, when volunteers will carve the turkeys and put the food in refrigerators overnight.

Both events are free, and they're open to everyone, not just disadvantaged residents. Organizers say they serve many who are far from family -- tourists and residents alike.

"It's really for people who have no place else to go and really just want to be around other people," LaCoe said.

The Hudson's meal is served family style, with 10 to 16 people per table. But there's no reason to be shy.

Nametags help strangers get acquainted, and a volunteer at each table will serve as a host and keep the conversation going, LaCoe said.

The church will be holding a worship service prior to its meal, but Dixon said the event is ecumenical and all are invited.

"This is about community," she said. "Come on down. Join us, please."

Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

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