Thanksgiving took on a different look at the 24th annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the St. Helens Lodge on Old Portland Road in Warren.
Due to the pandemic restrictions, the free community holiday meal was served as a drive-thru pick-up event instead of the usual sit-down feast on Thursday, Nov. 18. The holiday tradition, held annually by Columbia County Mental Health Services (CCMH) and the St. Helens Moose Lodge members, had been canceled last year because of the coronavirus.
This year community members were invited to sign up in advance to receive the holiday meal.
“I think we had like 235 slots available,” CCMH Executive Assistant Heather Johnson said. “And they were all filled.”
The event was designed to make the Thanksgiving experience more universal.
“We do it to give back to the community,” Johnson said. ”We understand that a lot of people don't have family around or the actual ability to make Thanksgiving meals.”
The pickup service comes at a more critical time than ever, given a cascade of food insecurity and supply-chain shortages set off by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a 2021 survey conducted by The American Farm Bureau Federation, the cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 has jumped 14% from last year, to $53.31. The survey shows that the star of the Thanksgiving table, the turkey, costs $23.99 for a 16-pound bird, which works out to about $1.50 per pound, a price increase of 24% since last year.
At the Moose Lodge drive-thru pick-up, each Thanksgiving meal kit came with turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, pie, and dinner rolls.
Local grocery stores such as St. Helens Market Fresh, Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Costco all made either specific item donations or financial contributions to the event this year.
For Johnson, giving back is a natural outgrowth of what she has been doing professionally for a long time.
“I've been working in the human services field for about 15 years,” she said, of her motivation in assisting with such community events. “I think working in that field helps me as a human to want to like give back and give more.”
CCMH, founded July 15, 1975, is a nonprofit behavioral health provider located at 58646 McNulty Way in St. Helens. The annual Thanksgiving dinner is one of the ways CCMH chooses to pay it forward.
“Community outreach is super important to us,” Johnson said. “And just letting community members know that we're there.”