Successfully orchestrating those meals is a significant undertaking, and would not be possible without the 100 or more people who volunteer their time to make sure that the meals go on as planned, says Holly Dinsmore, who organizes the event for WabiSabi.
According to Dinsmore, preparations for the meals begin long before the food is served to hungry diners.
This year, the food preparation for the Thanksgiving dinner started days before the meal itself, according to Zachary Davidson, the executive chef of Cabo Grill. Davidson volunteered to prepare the entrees and sides.
“I’ll be receiving the food on Monday,” he said in an interview the week of the event. “I’ll spend Tuesday and Wednesday prepping everything... roasting the turkey, making the stuffing and the sweet potatoes.”
Davidson also secured food donations from Sysco and Norbest Turkey Farm out of Manti, Utah.
“Sysco helped me coordinate with all the vendors,” Davidson said.
“Thanks to their help, Davidson was able to get all the necessary food donated so that WabiSabi wouldn’t have any food bill for the Thanksgiving dinner this year. “That will save them hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” he said. “For a non-profit, that’s huge.”
The day before the meal, volunteers show up at the Grand Center to set up the tables and buffet area. Then there are volunteers needed to sign people in, serve the food, man the beverage table, bus the tables and wash the dishes.
“It’s not just about the smiling faces that everyone sees during the meal,” Dinsmore said. “There are some people who call and ask to wash dishes. They want to do the behind the scenes jobs that no one ever sees.”
Moab resident Ruth Waters has been volunteering with the holiday meal for the last six years. “I’m always on the pies,” she said. Waters said she first decided to volunteer because she likes people, and she knew the organization needed help.
“There’s no point in making a big dinner if you’re not going to have a big table full of people,” she said.
Waters said the dinners are great for seniors or single parents who might not have family members with whom to share the holidays.
For Mona Horwitz, 2012 was her first year volunteering at the Thanksgiving dinner, though she’s attended twice before.
“I was shocked at how good it was,” she said.
Horwitz has been helping out with the WabiSabi Sunday brunches for several years, but when she found out that they needed extra help for this year’s dinner she agreed. Horwitz generally works at the front desk, signing people in, but she keeps an eye out for anywhere that help might be needed.
“The people are so fun,” she said. “Everybody is so happy. Nobody is negative. Everybody is positive.”
Horwitz said one main reason she volunteers is to help Dinsmore. “She’s always helping out everyone else, so naturally people want to help her out when they can,” Waters said.
Sue Allemand is also a frequent volunteer at the holiday dinners. “I’ve been doing it since they held it at the MARC,” she said.
Allemand said she decided to volunteer at the meals after attending one year. She can be found at the welcome desk. Allemand keeps returning year after year because she loves the people, she said.
“There are people from literally all over the world that come,” she said. “I love the people... I love hearing their stories.”
The Hands-Up group also relies on at least one volunteer from the Grand Center. According to Dinsmore, an employee of the Grand Center has to be on the premises at all times, otherwise the meal couldn’t happen.
“We’re eternally grateful to the staff of the Grand Center for allowing us to have our holiday meals there,” she said.
Dinsmore said she’s “constantly amazed” by the number of people who are willing to volunteer their time, despite the fact that it’s a holiday.
“There never seems to be a shortage,” she said.