SHANE FUS, left and his twin brother Shawn found a new toy last year in the kitchen at Columbia Gorge Community College where mom, Rosa Fus, and her helpers prepare the annual feast sponsored by the Salvation Army branch in The Dalles. The now 2-year-old twins will visit the kitchen again for a short time in 2013 before being babysat in another location so volunteers can concentrate on their work. Contributed photo
Rosa Fus took one look at the huge mound of potatoes – 600 to 700 pounds – waiting to be peeled for last year’s Community Thanksgiving dinner and broke into tears.
Her husband, Oregon National Guard Sgt. Stacey Fus looked at the piles of spuds and said, “It’s not that bad.”
He had faced plenty of logistical challenges during his military career, which included two deployments to Iraq, so he assessed the situation and began organizing.
“We started peeling potatoes,” said Rosa. “And when we thought we’d peeled enough, there were more to peel.”
She told son Jordan, then 15, that if he wanted to spend time with his friends for the next three days, he would have to bring them to the kitchen at Columbia Gorge Community College, where the meal is prepared, and have them help peel potatoes.
Fus credits her family’s support and sage advice from a 20-year volunteer known as “Rocky” for helping her categorize what needed to be done and get rolling.
“The kitchen is fun, it’s the hub,” she said.
The reward for three days of cooking dinner for 1,000 people, said Fus, was having the opportunity to see people from all socio-economic circles come together in the gymnasium at St. Mary’s Academy to visit and enjoy a traditional feast.
“There’s a lot to do but I met some incredible people,” she said. “I will never look at Thanksgiving the same way again.”
Fus will once again take on the role of head chef for the 24th annual dinner sponsored by the Salvation Army that takes place from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28, at St. Mary’s, 1112 Cherry Heights Road.
She knows the drill by now and will be looking for volunteers to commit to two-hour shifts during the three days before Thanksgiving when the majority of cooking has to be done.
People interested in helping with preparations may call RaeAnne Edmisten, meal coordinator, at the Salvation Army’s office in The Dalles at 541-296-6417.
That same number can be used by homebound senior and disabled citizens to get a dinner delivered to their residence.
“We really need help for Rosa in the kitchen or she’s going to have to put up with me cooking,” said Edmisten, who is new to her job as youth activity coordinator. “I have to give Rosa all the kudos for doing this.”
Fus was asked by Major Tammy Ray, head of the local Salvation Army office, to take the lead on preparing the annual feast in 2012 because no one else had stepped forward to take on that responsibility.
Fus had a rudimentary knowledge of how things operated after volunteering in 2011.
She had also cooked for large gatherings with 4-H and other youth organizations.
Fifty turkeys will be roasted Nov. 25-27 and then deboned and put into serving containers for refrigeration until Nov. 28. The bones will be boiled to make the base for homemade gravy, which can be poured over the potatoes or stuffing.
“It seems like total chaos but its controlled chaos,” said Edmisten.
The potatoes will also be prepared during the first three days of the week, which is a huge part of the preparation process because no instant spuds are used.
“Everybody says we should move to fake but it’s not the same,” said Fus.
There are also green beans and cranberry sauce — the only items to come out of a can — to round out the meal.
Community members are invited to donate pies for dessert.
“This is a chance to sit down with your neighbor or somebody you don’t know and visit around a delicious meal.”
When Fus first heard about the meal, she thought it was to feed homeless people and those with no family to celebrate the holiday with.
During her first year of service, she learned differently.
“It’s for everybody and anybody,” she said.
The Salvation Army gratefully accepts donations for its annnual Community Thanksgiving Dinner and other programs at 623 East Third Street.