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The Fort Dodge community turns out to serve others with Thanksgiving

The Salvation Army prepared to serve 150 dinner guests

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Volunteers Heidi and Joe Brown, of Pomeroy, empty freshly drained potatoes into a pot for mashing Thursday morning at the Salvation Army in Fort Dodge. Fellow volunteer Ray Vasquez, of Fort Dodge, looks on.

Ray Vasquez, of Fort Dodge, almost disappeared in a cloud of steam Thursday morning as he helped pour two giant pots of boiled potatoes into strainers at the Salvation Army for their annual Thanksgiving meal.

It’s his fourth year of helping out as a volunteer.

He’s done every job there is to do in the kitchen.

“I’ll do whatever I’m asked to do,” he said. “I’m the best dish washer five counties over; I’m the best potato masher five counties over. Anything I can do to be of service, that’s the whole idea of it.”

Joe and Heidi Brown, of Pomeroy, have also been spending the last four Thanksgivings at the Salvation Army helping out.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Volunteer Arlene Opheim, of Fort Dodge, puts pumpkin pie on plates Thursday morning at the Salvation Army in downtown Fort Dodge in preparation for their meal.

He stayed true to his personal tradition this year, wearing a bright Christmas-themed apron.

“She got it for me,” Joe Brown said. “The first year they gave me a frilly apron. I want to be different. We’re here to celebrate.”

He, too, will do any job asked.

“We all talk about what needs done, then pitch in where there’s a void,” he said.

The couple started coming after a discussion at home during a Thanksgiving where it was just the two of them.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Volunteer Kerry Akins, at left, helps her son August Akins, 9, get his apron on Thursday morning at the Salvation Army in Fort Dodge. Lincoln Akins, 11, waits his turn at right.

“I said, ‘Why not come here,'” Joe Brown said. “We’ve been doing it as a tradition ever since.”

She’s got an important job.

“I think I’m supposed to keep them on track,” Heidi Brown said. “That’s my part. I also made the gravy.”

Mashed potatoes by the giant pot full is just part of the meal.

Arlene Opheim, of Fort Dodge, is the eight-year veteran who’s in charge of a critical element.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Salvation Army Maj. Rick Hamelund talks to some of the volunteers that helped prepare and serve the Thanksgiving meal Thursday at the Salvation Army.

“Salads and desert,” she said proudly.

She even has a favorite spatula for getting the pie out of the pan and onto the plates. It’s not the pie-slice-shaped spatula one might think, it’s rectangular.

“I like this one,” she said.

Nothing beats experience when it comes to serving up pie. Not everyone can get the slice onto the plate without breaking it.

Opheim has it down to a fine art.

“You just hope that the crust isn’t sticky,” she said while pointing to one of the few pieces of edge crust that fell off.

She had her own Thanksgiving at home with her son on Wednesday and was enjoying the experience of being able to help.

Kerry Akins, of Fort Dodge, brought her children Lincoln Akins, 11, and August Akins, 9, to help.

“They learn that they’re very fortunate to have all the things they have,” she said. “Some here don’t have a family.”

Maj. Rick Hamelund gathered the volunteers in the kitchen shortly before the doors opened.

They didn’t need a lot of instructions.

“There are so many repeats,” he said of the familiar faces. “They know what to do, they really do.”

He, too, enjoys it when parents bring their children to help out.

“They can see that there are people that don’t have what they do,” he said. “There are some that don’t have a place to lay down.”

Hamelund said that he expected about 100 people to visit. The kitchen had prepared food for about 150 — all done by volunteers.

“We would not be able to do this without volunteers,” he said.

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