TRAVERSE CITY — Ten turkeys, 50 pounds of potatoes and several pies proved enough for the Safe Harbor dinner crowd.
“It was a small army of volunteers,” said Joanne Tuck, who ran the homeless shelter’s kitchen from 10 a.m. onward Thursday. “Everybody’s just been fantastic.”
Tuck led a pro-bono crew from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in cutting potatoes, carving turkeys and getting yams in the oven.
She expected a crowd of 65 to 70 — but made sure there was enough to feed 100.
“So I hope there’s a lot of hungry people coming through,” Tuck said.
The full menu included turkey — of course — with mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade dressing, green-bean casserole, yams, cranberry sauce, rolls, corn and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
Tuck’s cousin, Sherri Robinson, was one of several staffing the kitchen. Her family came along with her.
It’s a tradition — they’ve volunteered on Thanksgiving for the last decade, since Robinson’s oldest son passed away.
“Thanksgiving was the first holiday that we were going to have without him, so we decided at that point that we would just mix it up and serve other people,” she said.
“Helping out is just really nice,” added her 15-year-old son, Mick, who kept on top of the kitchen’s seemingly endless stack of dishes.
Safe Harbor, open from November into the spring, offers the local homeless population a refuge from northern Michigan winters. Guests are welcome to stay from 6 p.m. through the morning and get a hot dinner, a bed, coffee and a light morning breakfast.
A rotation of about 25 local churches staffs the Wellington Street facility in shifts, running the shelter for a half or full week and providing grub during their time.
The crowd tends to be a hair lighter for Thanksgiving, said volunteer Susan Arnold — many go and visit relatives for the holiday.
A rare lunch offering drew some extra guests, though. Arnold and her crew offered chips, sandwiches, cookies and an afternoon inside. The shelter normally closes during the afternoons.
“It was nice they were able to stay and still have a Thanksgiving meal here tonight, but also have a laid back day,” Arnold said.
Donations provided the meal — it takes about $3,000 to serve up enough breakfasts and dinners through a week-long shift, Arnold said. Latter-day Saints’ parishioners got them close to that total.
Turkeys came free of charge courtesy of Paul Hagerty and Maxbauer’s, Tuck added.
And volunteers proved easy to find — easily outpacing the typically seven-strong dinner crew.
“We had a lot of people who were very eager to help out with Thanksgiving dinner, so it’s been fun,” Arnold said.
The bustling shelter was an easy draw.
Roasters left little space on the kitchen’s stainless steel countertops, and the scent of cooked turkeys wafted out into the dining room. In the meantime, the shelter’s guests chatted over a cup of coffee, dealt hands of cards and settled down, dog-eared book in hand.
It was a welcome reprieve from the patchy snow and chilling wind offered by the cold November afternoon.
And dinner was proving right on schedule.
Tuck had her turkeys in by noon, and as they roasted, Robinson and her crew — husband Mike, Mick and their 16-year-old exchange student from Denmark, August — got to work on sides.
Tuck took care of menu planning and shopping, and other church parishioners helped out from home in advance, prepping onions and celery for the stuffing and peeling potatoes.
Tuck hosts her family’s annual dinners as well — but it’s the first time she’s organized one of this size.
Her family will come together to break bread on Sunday instead.
“I had a special request from my granddaughter to do pumpkin bars,” Tuck said.
When she posed the idea of helping out instead of their Thursday tradition, her daughter, granddaughter and other relatives jumped at the idea.
And several other parishioners joined the family team.
“Definitely, people think about that more on the holidays. But Safe Harbor in general is such a great way to give back,” Arnold said. “You really do get to know the community much better.”