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Plenty of turkey to go around

GLENN DIETEL piled his plate high at the Sonoma Community Center’s annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building. There was plenty of turkey – both smoked and roasted – sweet and mashed potatoes, sausages, salads stuffing, side dishes, desserts and wine. And it was all free.  Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

GLENN DIETEL piled his plate high at the Sonoma Community Center’s annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building. There was plenty of turkey – both smoked and roasted – sweet and mashed potatoes, sausages, salads stuffing, side dishes, desserts and wine. And it was all free. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

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Cooks at the Sonoma Community Center and Vintage House senior center worked overtime on Thanksgiving feeding almost 700 people.

The Sonoma Community Center, which moved its annual community feed to the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building, served more than 460 meals, while Vintage House served about 225 meals.

Diners started lining up at the veterans building by about 1 p.m. – a full two hours ahead of the 3 p.m. opening.

One diner said there weren’t as many main courses this year, with no ham or salmon, but there was plenty of turkey, sausage – and shrimp.

“Our menu is based on what our donors have, and this year Whole Foods had shrimp instead of hams and salmon,” said Toni Castrone, the community center’s executive director.

It took about 160 volunteers to cook, set up and clean up. “We got the cleanup done in about an hour,” Castrone said.

The veterans building is much more spacious than the community center and Castrone said they’d like to go back next year. “If they’ll have us, we’ll go back,” she said.

In addition, some 30 pies showed up for dessert. “One little girl showed up with some cookies she had made,” Castrone said.

There was plenty of food left, and Castrone said it was donated to one of the local nonprofits on Friday.

“We were just overwhelmed with the generosity,” she added

At Vintage House, volunteers served almost 100 home-delivery dinners, delivered by the Sonoma Kiwanis.

“We had more than 125 who were served extended-family style in the hall,” said Cindy Scarborough, the center’s executive director. “That includes some of the volunteers who stayed to eat.”

More than 60 volunteers set up and served dinner at Vintage House.

“Somewhere along the line, we either miscounted or lost track of a pan of mashed potatoes,” she said. “But we asked Dale Downing, who was one of our volunteers, if he had any extra mashed potatoes at Sonoma Market. He took off and came back with a pan of mashed potatoes for us.”

Chef Wayne Gordon, who has been turning out holiday meals for years, had some extra help this year from understudy Claude Blondin.

“I call this ‘inspired insanity’” said Scarborough. “We can’t cover all the contingencies. But we just keep on going.”

Vintage House is already taking reservations for its Christmas dinner. For planning purposes, Scarborough said they’d like to have reservations in by Friday, Dec. 21.

She said it’s a long-standing holiday tradition, started by founder Jerry Casson, that the holiday meal is intended for Valley residents age 55 and above.

For Christmas reservations, call Vintage House at 996-0311.

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