WATERLOO — The turkeys were cooked, the potatoes whipped and slices of pumpkin pie adorned with dollops of cream were lined up on tables.
Volunteers manned the food station as dozens of community members gathered early to enter the United Auto Workers Local 838 Union Hall for a free Thanksgiving meal scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
The Mike and Leona Adams Thanksgiving Dinner, now in its 36th year, served nearly 1,000 meals in less than four hours to those in need. The event’s namesakes began the dinner to help those who had lost their jobs to John Deere layoffs or the closing of Rath Packing.
Veridian Credit Union, formerly John Deere Credit Union, also has been involved since the beginning. Mike Adams was a JDCC board member.
Veridian had nearly 90 volunteers working at the dinner, along with retired UAW members who pitched in.
“It’s open to anybody who comes through the doors,” said Andrea Hudnut, Veridian public relations strategist. “It brings people together.”
By 4:15, the long tables set up in the hall were half full. A short time later, guest were instructed, one table at a time, to get in the food line.
The Adams’ daughters, Sandy and Sally, sat at the front of the line handing out plastic plates. The pair have been helping at the dinner since its inception.
“We come out of respect for our parents, to honor them,” Sally Adams said. “When Deere started laying off, Dad felt the need to help. And there are a lot of people who still need help.”
“He would personally go ask people for donations,” Sandy Adams said. “And they gave them.”
“He could talk anyone out of a nickel,” Sally Adams said.
Both sisters said their parents would be proud the dinner tradition has endured.
“Dad would be tickled pink,” Sandy Adams said.
While the sisters oversaw plate distribution, other family members were out delivering turkey dinners to Meals on Wheels recipients, and the women’s great-nieces were expected to arrive any minute to help serve and clean up.
Back in the kitchen, the territory of Lorna Neil, volunteers were whipping potatoes, stirring gravy, warming corn and opening cans of cranberries. Hy-Vee provided the turkeys, stuffing and pies.
“Veridian is in charge out there,” Neil said, pointing to the room filled with tables and chairs. “I’m in charge back here.”
Neil doesn’t remember how long she has been running the kitchen for the annual dinner.
“Oh, heck,” she said. “It’s been years.
“I line up the kitchen volunteers and put everyone to work.”
She’s never had any trouble finding people to help.
“We like to keep busy and do it with friends,” Neil said.
Sara Davis of Cedar Valley Hospice set up just inside the hall to give free blood pressure checks. It is her second year offering the service at the Adams dinner.
“I’ll get people throughout the event,” she said.
In the lobby, Schaenette “Frenchie” Anway was giving free haircuts.
Anway runs the Clip Art Corner salon in the Bridges Senior Lifestyle Living in Waterloo and has been offering cuts at the dinner for 22 years.
“I’ll do about 45 haircuts tonight,” she said.
Years ago, Anway contacted the UAW to offer her services.
“I had to be approved by the board, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I do it in hopes that, with a haircut, they will feel blessed enough to improve their lives, to see God is at work.”
While the food line grew, Felicia White of Waterloo and her family waited patiently at their table. White was accompanied by her husband, James, son Skye Halverson, 10, and daughters Izabella Damme, 8, and Jenny Hanson, 22, and Hanson’s fiance.
“We came for the free Thanksgiving dinner,” James White said. “It helps a lot with the food costs.”
“It really brings the family together,” Felicia White said. “It’s a really nice event.”
While the Whites were waiting, Becky Ankona of Waterloo was helping her daughter, 3-year-old Zaniyah, with her food while son Jeremiah, 5, focused on his slice of pumpkin pie.
“It’s nice to see someone give a community meal to people who might not have one otherwise,” said Ankona, who attended the event with friend Lakeisha Hardin of Cedar Falls.
Hardin’s 4-year-old son, Amire, hadn’t cleared much of his plate and said the chocolate milk was his favorite part of the meal.
“He eats like a mouse,” Hardin said.
“This is a great event. I love it,” she said. “It’s awesome to see all these people sitting down together.”
Rodney’s Kitchen in downtown Waterloo also served free Thanksgiving meals Monday. It is the third year the restaurant offered free dinners.
Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving to our print, online and mobile readers.
We know there is a lot of preparation going on in your household as you organize the annual Thanksgiving feast. We too have been preparing for the big day, and The Courier again will deliver our largest paper of the year.
We’ve been working for weeks to prepare our biggest publication. Advertisers call on us to distribute the Cedar Valley’s biggest Black Friday offers on Thanksgiving Day. This year, the Thanksgiving edition of The Courier will be jam-packed with money-saving ads and inserts from retailers across the Cedar Valley.
Not a subscriber? Look for copies of the giant Thursday newspaper at Casey’s General Stores, Hy-Vee, Kum N Go, Kwik Star and other dealer sites, such as Hometown Foods, B&B, Walgreen’s and CVS Pharmacy as early as Wednesday evening.
We are also excited to announce our annual Thanksgive- away contest is back.
Thanksgiveaway is an opportunity to win $5,000 in cash in a promotion across all Lee Enterprises newspapers. In addition, three local winners each will receive a $100 gift card. Details for Thanksgiveaway registration will only be available in our Thanksgiving Day edition. The contest will run from Thanksgiving Day through Dec. 3.
From The Courier family to yours, we want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!
Wear those elastic-waist slacks with aplomb Thursday, happy in the knowledge you can stuff yourself silly at Thanksgiving dinner — and still save 75 cents per person on the feast.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 32nd annual price survey, the average cost of a Thanksgiving feast for 10 people is $49.12, a 75-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.87.
A 16-pound gobbler comes across the grocery-store checkout scanner at $22.38, roughly $1.40 per pound, a decrease of 2 cents per pound or a total of 36 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2016.
It’s the second year in a row the overall cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined.
“The cost of the dinner is the lowest since 2013 and second-lowest since 2011. Even as America’s family farmers and ranchers continue to face economic challenges, they remain committed to providing a safe, abundant and affordable food supply for consumers at Thanksgiving and throughout the year,” says John Newton, AFBF director of market intelligence.
The shopping list for the informal survey includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 — and with plenty of leftovers to wrap up and send home with guests.
Wine, pecan pie and other extras, naturally, will add to the tab.
Consumers continue to see lower retail turkey prices due to continued large inventory in cold storage, up almost double digits from last year, Newton said.
Other foods showing large decreases this year were a gallon of milk, $2.99; a dozen rolls, $2.26; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.45; a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.52; a 1-pound bag of green peas, $1.53; and a group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $2.72.
“Milk production has increased, resulting in continued low retail prices,” Newton said. “In addition, grocers often use milk as a loss leader to entice consumers to shop at their stores.”
Items that increased modestly in price were: a half-pint of whipping cream, $2.08; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.81; a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.21; a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, $2.43; and a 1-pound veggie tray, $.74.
“Whole whipping cream is up about 4 percent in price due to increased consumer demand for full-fat dairy products,” Newton said.
Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey.
Those promotions give you more bang for your Thanksgiving buck. Fareway, for example, offers a 14-pound turkey free with $50 purchase, while at Hy-Vee food stores, shoppers who buy a ham can get a free turkey.
Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.
The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home. But while the most recent CPI report for food at home shows a 0.5 percent increase over the past year (available online at www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm), the Farm Bureau survey shows a 1.5 percent decline.
Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.