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Having 450 friends over for dinner

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The Sonoma Community Center is gearing up for a Thanksgiving dinner served free to an expected throng of 450, while Vintage House senior center is planning to prepare closer to 200 meals.

The community center is moving its annual bash from the center to the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building at 126 First St. W.

“We could seat about 150 people at the community center,” said Toni Castrone, the center’s executive director. “Everybody else would have to stand or sit on the steps. We’ll be able to seat 450 this year.”

And it’s going to take a small army of volunteers to feed that many people.

As of Monday, about 30-plus people will be helping chef Gary Edwards prepare food on Wednesday and Thursday. The food will be prepared at the community center, at the Broadway Catering Kitchen and on Thursday at the veterans building kitchen. And another 160 volunteers have signed up to help with the set-up, serving and/or cleanup.

As usual, the doors will open at 3 p.m. and volunteers will be serving until about 5:30 p.m. – or until the food runs out.

“Most years we do have some leftovers,” Castrone added.

While there appears to be enough food, the one item on which the community center is coming up short is homemade desserts. People can drop a dessert off at the community center on Tuesday and Wednesday or they can take it to the veterans memorial building on Thursday.

“This is really a team effort,” Castrone said. “It’s a community affair.”

Among the donors this year is the Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley which donated $1,000 for turkeys; Paul’s Produce; Green String Farms; Joanne Romanini with Romanini Produce; Margie Tosch with the Community Café; the Red Grape; Whole Foods and Cody Williams with the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.

Decorations and table settings are from Safeway and the boys & Girls Club made the placemats. Kitchens and supplies came from Broadway Catering and Elaine Bell Catering.

Vintage House had a reservation deadline of last Friday and expects to serve almost 200 dinners, including 71 that will be delivered to shut-ins by the Kiwanis Club of the Sonoma Plaza.

Cindy Scarborough, executive director of Vintage House, said more than 50 volunteers will make sure the shut-ins, and the estimated 115 sit-down diners, will be fed.

“We’re doing food prep all week,” Scarborough said. “And we’ll have two shifts of volunteers Thursday – one in the morning to set up and get boxes ready for the shut-ins, and another for the sit-down dinner at 3 p.m.”

This year, chef Wayne Gordon, who has been preparing holiday meals at Vintage House for the past 15 years, will have another hand in the kitchen. Claude Blondin will be Gordon’s understudy this year.

And as usual, the turkeys for this year’s dinner have been donated by Friedman’s Home Improvement.