Leaves have begun to cascade from the treetops in swirls of orange, yellow, and brown, the hullabaloo of late summer has quieted, and many of us count our blessings while thinking of ways to give back to our community. Thankful Hearts is a group of Clatsop County residents, who have headed the call of community service by initiating an annual Thanksgiving meal open to any and all who want to share some fantastic food together in Warrenton.

free thanksgiving dinner
“Some years the tables fill in waves, last year it was non-stop and it was amazing,” said Lisa Lamping. The Warrenton Community Center is the perfect venue to host Thanksgiving dinner. There is ample space for people to come in and have a relaxing sit-down meal. Photo credit: Lisa Lamping

Inspired by their mutual love of community, a group of friends founded the non-profit organization as a way to bring people closer together during Thanksgiving. Now in its seventh year, the Community Day of Thanks by Thankful Hearts has served home-cooked turkey, pies, and traditional side-dishes to over 1,500 people and expect upwards of 300 dinner participants this year. “We want everyone to come together, relax, and enjoy some delicious food,” Dianne Burkhart, a founding member of Thankful Hearts, explained. “People are able to come in, sit down, choose what they want to eat on a menu, and are served their meal.”

“We see some locals return year after year,” said Lisa Lamping, who as a founding member of Thankful Hearts traditionally serves as hostess during the event. “It’s beautiful to see friends, neighbors and complete strangers come together and share a meal. My husband and family love being part of this event.” Every year the families of over 30 volunteers join together to coordinate cutlery, donations, decor, donated desserts, and of course, cooking for a small army.

free thanksgiving dinner
Local youth volunteer to serve dinner during the meal, distributing menus, bussing tables, and often just talking with those who come in for the event. Photo credit: Lisa Lamping

Kelly Clark joins Dianne and the pair use their cooking background, close friendship, and passion for food to create a stunning spread of Thanksgiving fixings for the community to enjoy. “We enjoy each other’s company and it manifested into cooking food,” Dianne said. The pair has cooked together for family and friends for years and rely on their strengthened partnership to present a united front for the Thankful Hearts Thanksgiving meal. Kelly and Dianne cook for days in the Warrenton Community Center kitchen, reinventing classic dishes and replicating favorite family recipes, “People were raving about Kelly’s bacon and onion green beans,” said Burkhart.

free thanksgiving meal
This group of volunteers kicked off the first Community Day of Thanks in 2011. Now in its seventh year, the free Thanksgiving meal will be served on Thursday, November 23, 2017. Photo credit: Lisa Lamping

While much of the meal is created from scratch, many desserts are donated from local organizations. “Last year we had, cakes, pies, cupcakes and 12 flavors of gelato donated from local bakeries and businesses.” said Lisa. Other local organizations donate helium (Englund Marine), advertising space, décor, centerpieces (Tipton’s Decor), cash donations and more. “The first year, seven years ago, we had to fund the event ourselves,” said Lisa. “Thankful Hearts now receives enough donations that the event is able to fund itself.”

To increase the reach of Thankful Hearts, Carl Burkhart personally delivers meals from Knappa to Seaside to those who are unable to attend the event in Warrenton. A few years ago, it was during the deliveries that Carl noticed a family stranded on the side of the road. Picking them up, he brought them to the Warrenton Community Center to share a meal and find out how he could help. The family was on their way to holiday celebrations in another town, so Carl lent them his car for a few days. “Carl called and told me that he let a family borrow my car for the weekend,” Dianne said. “The family was so grateful.”

free thanksgiving dinner
Kerrie McKey (left) Rochelle Sims (right) volunteered to help cook over 300 servings of traditional Thanksgiving dishes for the annual Community Day of Thanks Thanksgiving Meal by Thankful Hearts. Photo credit: Lisa Lamping

While Thankful Hearts are a group of local families who come together to cook and serve their community, the reach and impact of the Thanksgiving meal can be felt far beyond the borders of Clatsop County. The home-style traditional meal is completely free and open to the public. “No matter what your circumstances, no one will be turned away, as long as the food lasts,” Lisa said.

The Community Day of Thanks Thanksgiving Meal will be held at the Warrenton Community Center on Thursday, November 23, 2017 from 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.  Follow the Thankful Hearts group on Facebook to keep in touch.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email