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Volunteers lend helping hand during 33rd Annual Twin Ports Thanksgiving Buffet

Organizers reported a high volunteer turnout for the annual College of St. Scholastica meal.

people gathering for community meal
Tonya Sconners, left, of Duluth, looks at James Dunstan’s son, Niko Kosandbich, while volunteering at the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving meal at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Thursday.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — There was an abundance of food, helping hands and gratitude during the 33rd annual Twin Ports Thanksgiving Day Buffet on Thursday. The free community meal was hosted by the College of St. Scholastica at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

people gathering for community meal
Volunteer Heather Salfer, of Duluth, serves corn during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving meal at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Organizers reported a high volunteer turnout, with a slower-than-usual start during the event's first in-person gathering since the beginning of the pandemic.

A total of 1,295 runners finished the 5K and 81 competitors completed the Tough Turkey 1 Mile on Thursday in Duluth.

"We weren't sure about how many volunteers would return after COVID," said Monica Hendrickson, the event's organizer for the past nine years. "We're thankful for those who came out to help. We're also thankful to the community, private donors and businesses. We had a lot of last-minute needs, and businesses answered the calls."

people gathering for community meal
Nevaeh Eades, 6, of Superior, reacts as Santa Claus visits during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving meal on Thursday.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

First-year volunteer Jake Jauss, of Duluth, joined his two sisters, nephews and niece to help serve during the event. "It's a great way to give back to the community," Jauss said, adding he plans to volunteer again next year.

Dining room volunteer coordinator Kris Hershey has helped out with the event in previous years, alongside her sister, mother, fiance, father and brother-in-law, who are all involved with organizing the meal.

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"In comparison to years past, it’s going very well," Hershey said. "We’ve got fabulous volunteers and we’ve got plenty of them. The ham is delicious. You know, some people have a preference, but I have heard no complaints."

people gathering for community meal
Ham was served during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving meal at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Thursday. A turkey shortage prevented organizers from getting enough turkey for the annual meal.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Approximately 1,400 meals were delivered to homebound individuals and their caretakers on Thanksgiving morning.

Ham was served this year instead of the usual turkey because the 2,000 pounds of turkey needed could not be pre-ordered due to a shortage.

Ham is on the menu due to a national turkey shortage.

Around noon, there was a steady trickle of guests taking their seats to enjoy the ham dinner, complete with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, vegetables, dinner roll and cake.

"Usually there's a long line, but it's getting busier," Hendrickson said.

Skip VanKessel, of Duluth, also turned out to give back. Both he and his wife are College of St. Scholastica graduates. With children living in New York and Washington, the couple decided to spend their holiday at the DECC volunteering together.

people gathering for community meal
Volunteers and guests fill the Lake Superior Ballroom during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving meal Thursday.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

"It's not as busy as they said it should be, but maybe it will get busier. I think part of it was because they're serving ham this year," VanKessel said.

Duluth resident Kaye Bergman joined her son and daughter-in-law for the meal. While she prefers turkey, she was thankful for the opportunity to spend the holiday with family.

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"I’ve been coming here for many years with my son. It was just the two of us and because of the way he worked, I could never make a meal at home because I never know when we can be there," Bergman said.

people gathering for community meal
Elliot Kaiser, 8, of Superior, carries a tray full of desserts while volunteering during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving meal Thursday.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Rural Living Environments direct support staff Patty Skube traveled to the event from Babbitt with her client to meet with her family for dinner.

"She comes here every year to meet her dad," Skube said. "As for the free meal, I think it’s unreal. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s great. I’m glad it’s available for everybody."

Diana Jereczek, of Duluth, came to the DECC to lend a helping hand with her son, as well as enjoy the meal with her family after participating in the Gobble Gallop 5K on Thursday. Jereczek also gives back in many other ways throughout the holidays by donating blood and wrapping gifts at the mall.

people gathering for community meal
Hattie Simone, 5, clears a plate while bussing tables during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving meal Thursday.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

"The event's going really well," she said. "I'm surprised. We expected there to be more people. I don’t know, maybe the food shelves had enough, but it’s hard for me to believe because it seems like everyone at Second Harvest keeps asking for more donations."

Ruby Wallan, of Duluth, heard about the free meal through her church, and decided to attend with her husband.

"It sounded like a good thing; neither one of us cooking," Wallan said. "I am really enjoying life. I’m retired and Duluth is a good place. There is a lot to do. There’s things like this that I think are a really worthwhile. Duluth is my home."

people gathering for community meal
Niko Kosandbich, 9 months, of Superior, smiles during the College of St. Scholastica Twin Ports Community Thanksgiving meal Thursday.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Brielle Bredsten is the business reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.

She earned a bachelor's degree in Professional Writing & Technical Communication, with minors in Advertising and Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University, in addition to a two-year professional paid internship as reporter/editor of the student newspaper.

She is an award-winning professional writer, photographer and editor based in rural Minnesota. Over the past decade, Brielle Bredsten has contributed more than 1,000 articles, feature stories, non-profit press-releases, photographs and columns. Her work has been published in several community newspapers.

Send her story tips, feedback or just say hi at bbredsten@duluthnews.com.
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