Thanksgiving community banquet returns with new name, leadership

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Winters High School athletes volunteered to serve food to the community at the first Be Thankful Banquet Thanksgiving meal on Sunday, Nov. 20 at St. Anthony’s Parish Hall. (Aaron Geerts/Winters Express)

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Sunday, Nov. 20 marked the first Be Thankful Thanksgiving Banquet in Winters. From the volunteer efforts that facilitated it all to the delicious food that brought people together, it was a feast that embodied several factors that make this community great.

In March, organizers of the annual Winters Community Dinner efforts stepped away due to spending concerns. As Thanksgiving neared, talks began to arise about bringing a community-wide Thanksgiving dinner back. Community volunteers began talking, and the talks soon turned into actions. The “Be Thankful Banquet” was created and geared up to revive the community dinner under a new name, but with the same intention to support Winters residents.

“Different people and organizations came together to make this happen. We had discussions and realized people have been cooped up too long from this epidemic and there was a real need for people to get out into the community. So, that was our impetus for the whole thing,” explained Al Calderone, one of the main facilitators of the event. “We focused on seniors and those in need, but anybody was welcome to come, and (we) had close to 200 sign-ups for it.”

While the St. Vincent de Paul Society took the reins, other local organizations stepped up to help resurrect this community feast. Taking part was the First Baptist Church, The Church of Latter Day Saints, Genesis Co, Green River Brewing and Taproom, First Northern Bank, the Winters Senior Foundation, the Winters High School culinary program and St. Anthony Catholic Church (which provided its parish hall where the feast took place). Of course, numerous community members also stepped up — including the WHS boys’ baseball and basketball teams — to help decorate, cook, serve and clean up.

“It was a really great effort from the people in the community to come together and make it happen. It seemed like people had a really good time and they didn’t just eat and run. People lingered and stayed a while enjoying each other’s company. It was nice to see kids in there coloring on the tables and everything,” said Calderone. “We were under St. Vincent de Paul’s 501(c)3, which was very important to all of us working in this nonprofit status. Rather than reinventing the wheel and starting a new organization, this was more than convenient, it was perfect and just fit.”

To Calderone, the Be Thankful Banquet carries much nostalgia as his church originally put on a Thanksgiving community meal in 1998 at the Winters Community Center. That’s why he jumped at the chance when asked to help bring it back. His help combined with numerous volunteers and a healthy helping of community collaboration made the Be Thankful Banquet go on without a hitch.

“This was very timely. Not just because it’s the season of holidays, but a new season where people are living in a way they weren’t at this time last year,” said Calderone. “People are behaving differently and interacting with one another in a healthy, positive way. So, it just seemed timely to get people together. And why do this in Winters? Well, that’s where I live. That’s my community.”

The event organizers are looking to continue the Be Thankful Banquet around the same time next year. For more information and to learn how to get involved, visit the St. Vincent de Paul website at www.svdp-sacramento.org or email Sandy Vickrey at svickrey711@yahoo.com.

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