Platte Valley Helping Hands went ahead this year with its 26th annual full-course traditional free Thanksgiving dinner for the Saratoga community and folks in the Upper Platte Valley.

Even so, it was the second straight holiday to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The annual social gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving and usually enjoyed with family and friends wasn’t held in-person for a second year as the dinner was takeout only.

Overall, 159 takeout meals were pre-ordered and served by 1 p.m. Thursday by the volunteer group from the Platte Valley Community Center commercial kitchen. Orders were up from the 125 meals prepared last year.

Cooking for began early Thanksgiving Day when eight turkeys went into the four ovens at the Community Center kitchen at 4 a.m., said Lisa Kleeman, leader of the eight-person kitchen crew that prepared this year’s feast. The turkeys are provided each year by the Campbell family, which owns the Wolf Hotel in Saratoga.

Following the turkeys going into the ovens came the preparation of 28 pounds of ham, enough potatoes — regular and sweet — to serve the 159 meals, as well as 10 pans of stuffing, 3 gallons of gravy and dozens and dozens of dinner rolls. There also was 3-4 gallons of cranberry sauce and 28 pumpkin pies with whipped cream topping.

Each meal was then dished into large to-go serving containers with a separate container for the pie and roll.

To get all the hot meals delivered between 11:45 and and 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day as planned takes a crew of eight volunteers for the in-town deliveries and additional volunteers for out-of-town deliveries. All this additional effort was supervised by Marilyn Verplancke.

To clean up the kitchen at the center takes some time, said Kleeman.

“We will be done by 2 to 3 this afternoon and then we can go home to our own dinners,” she said. “In past years we would sit down and eat and socialize with the people attending the dinner, but with the COVID problems we just go home when were done.”

Kleeman said Platte Valley Helping hands appreciates the large commercial kitchen at the Community Center that “allows us to do this efficiently with less help.”

“I miss the social interaction we had when we gathered at the Catholic Parish Hall in the past,” she added. “I am looking forward to next year when life (hopefully) gets back to normal.”

This large event is supported each year by donations from the town and area merchants and residents, said Kleeman.

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