Volunteering is the family tradition
The Kreager family has volunteered at the annual Twin Ports Region Thanksgiving Buffet for as long as 12-year-old Delaney Kreager can remember. "I'm pretty sure I've never not gone to it. I can't remember going for the first time," Delaney said. ...
The Kreager family has volunteered at the annual Twin Ports Region Thanksgiving Buffet for as long as 12-year-old Delaney Kreager can remember.
"I'm pretty sure I've never not gone to it. I can't remember going for the first time," Delaney said. "I'd be disappointed if we didn't go."
The Kreagers attended the buffet as guests for the first time about 11 years ago. Brian and Jennifer Kreager were transplants to Duluth from Omaha. For the first few years the family traveled back to Nebraska to visit Jennifer's family, but with three daughters and a son, it got to be too complicated.
"We decided we'd had enough of traveling back and forth over the holidays," Brian Kreager said.
The following year, the family attended the dinner at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and has attended every year since as volunteers.
"It was so nice for our family to enjoy this meal together. So we decided to help make sure other families get to enjoy it too," Kreager said.
Over the years the family has helped in different parts of buffet. When the children were younger, they would set and clear tables, hand out desserts and help at the craft table.
"One year my in-laws came up and we all went and washed dishes together. That was pretty fun," Kreager said.
Delaney likes to hand out the desserts.
"I like it because you get to see all the people and talk with them and have a little conversation with them before you leave their table. It's really fun," Delaney said.
At this year's buffet on Nov. 27, the Kreager women are signed up to help with food prep in the DECC kitchen. Kreager and 4-year-old Gavin will hand out T-shirts to the volunteers.
"That's something he can actually do and he's in a space where there's room and he can run around and not focus the whole time," Kreager said. "We try to stagger ourselves and expose ourselves and the kids to different aspects of the process."
"We are so thankful to all of our donors and volunteers who have made this community event possible for 25 years," said Kevin Gunderson, a Wells Fargo manager who is serving as the Thanksgiving buffet senior chair this year. "No one should be alone or unable to provide a meal to their loved ones on this special day of Thanksgiving. It's all about giving back and we hope we can continue this tradition for another 25 years."
To mark the 25th anniversary of the event, organizers are unveiling a new campaign to encourage more volunteering throughout the year. "#Give25More" will run in conjunction with this year's buffet. Buffet volunteers are being asked to go beyond the Thanksgiving event and volunteer 25 more hours throughout the year with agencies associated with Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank. Volunteers are also encouraged to publicize their efforts by posting photos on social media using the #Give25More hashtag to inspire even more volunteerism.
Through their church, Holy Cross Lutheran, The Kreager family already volunteers by serving meals at the Damiano and CHUM centers. Holy Cross is also one of seven churches on the steering committee for Ruby's Pantry. Brian is the co-coordinator for Ruby's Pantry, which is held once a month at First United Methodist Church. He says it's important for the children to understand that a little volunteer effort can make huge differences. His kids seem to get it.
"My youngest daughter just recently started a sock drive at school, collecting new socks for folks down at the CHUM Drop-In Center. Things like that they can see make a difference, even if it's just a small difference. They're touching someone else's life," Kreager said.
"It's families like this that make it all work. We couldn't do it without them," said Bob Ashenmacher, spokesman for the College of St. Scholastica, which sponsors the Thanksgiving buffet in partnership with local businesses, organizations and volunteers.