Meal for all local residents taking place at high school this Thursday evening

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - A family sits down to eat at last year's free Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Kids Club. The event, taking place Thursday evening at Crook County High School, is open to anybody in the community.

Crook County Kids Club benefits each year from the support of community residents and organizations.

Next Thursday, the group will take time to give thanks, continuing an ongoing tradition of offering a free Thanksgiving Day meal one week ahead of the big day.

"It is definitely a way for us to give back to the community by saying thank you for supporting us throughout the years," said Kids Club Director Ashley Thrasher.

The Kids Club is a nonprofit after-school, non-school based program, Thrasher said, that is open each afternoon from 2:45 to 6 p.m. at Barnes Butte Elementary School.

"We are here for families in the community to have a place for their kids to go after school and do activities that enrich their lives," she added.

The dinner is made possible with the help of several local organizations, starting with food donations courtesy of Grocery Outlet, Ray's Food Place and Ericksons Thriftway. The menu features many of the traditional Thanksgiving items one might expect, including turkey and ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and cranberries. After finishing the main course, people can choose from a dessert spread that includes an assortment of pies and cakes.

"It is so good," Thrasher gushed. "The (Crook County High School) culinary class (taught by) Macy Hagensee helps cook everything every year. They are really awesome about helping us and supporting us."

Thrasher went on to acknowledge the high school, which allows use of the commons for the Kids Club to provide its dinner as well as use of the cafeteria kitchen. In addition, parents of Kids Club patrons join Kids Club board members in serving the food as hungry families file through the dinner line. Even the Kids Club children get involved, rolling utensils into napkins.

"It is definitely an effort by everybody," Thrasher said.

The dinner is free and open to everybody, although the event has always provided people an opportunity to make monetary donations to the Kids Club. This year is no different, but Thrasher intends to put more emphasis on that effort.

"We have a little game campaign that is going on right now where we are asking people to donate money toward purchases of new equipment," she said. "We have a lot more kids this year, so we are looking to get funding for board games, dodgeballs, basketballs, soccer balls — all of that fun stuff."

If past crowds are any indication, the Kids Club should see a decent turnout at next week's event. Last year, about 300 people showed up.

"In the past, we have had some food left over that we donate," Thrasher said, "but last year, we didn't have any food left over. It was a good turnout."

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