November 18, 2011 in City

Meal organizers have volunteer surplus, donation deficit

By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

North Idaho College culinary arts students Jennifer Dietz, left, and Ashley Powell carve some of the 150 smoked turkeys provided Thursday to the Women’s and Children’s Free Restaurant for their Thanksgiving meal. Chefs and chefs-to-be from schools and restaurants volunteered to slice up the birds, which will be served to an estimated 1,000 diners at Rogers High School on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

Thanksgiving meals

A list of free Thanksgiving meals is at If your community group is sponsoring a meal and it’s not listed there, let us know by emailing or calling (509) 459-5496.

Thirteen years ago, when Vickie and Michael Hillicoss of Newman Lake pulled together a community Thanksgiving Day dinner in Coeur d’Alene, they weren’t worried about creating a lasting tradition.    They were just concerned that no dinners seemed to be held in North Idaho on Thanksgiving Day.    They wanted that to change.

And change it did. Now folks in North Idaho have several dinners to choose from, before the holiday and on Thanksgiving Day itself.

The free dinner started by the Hillicosses will happen again at Lake City Center in Coeur d’Alene, though turkey, pie and monetary donations are running behind.

“Times are tough,” Michael Hillicoss said. “The donations are not materializing. But there are too many people who rely on this meal and need it. We will do what we have to do.”

Many of the meals on The Spokesman-Review’s list (Page A12) have become established community traditions. And the volunteers seem to cherish the dinners as much as the recipients do. Organizers sometimes turn away volunteers because they run out of tasks for them.

Pete Joplin, coordinator of the Thanksgiving Day meal held on Gonzaga University’s campus, has this message on his voicemail: “There are no more volunteer opportunities for this event. We are blessed with more than 125 volunteers to serve 350 meals. As is always the case, these opportunities fill fast, so I encourage anyone interested for next year to sign up early.”

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