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For the first time in its 23-year history, all the food for the annual Lions Club Thanksgiving Dinner has been donated.

“Usually, I have to buy some turkeys, but this year we haven’t had to. The community has come out and really supported us this year,” said Lions Club District Governor Lyndon Rinehart.

Rinehart attributed the generosity to a great deal of thankfulness residents are feeling now that the dinner will be held. Last year concerns over COVID-19 prevented the Lions from hosting the event.

This year the free dinner will continue and will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day at South Fremont Jr. High School.

“I think we have 24 turkeys. We’ll do 12 hams — the full hams — 150 pounds of potatoes and 20 small pans of stuffing and 55 or more pies,” he said.

One of those donating turkeys to the annual dinner is Vicci Watters, a professional chef at Three Rivers Ranch. She will cook five, 20-pound turkeys for the dinner.

“I’m borrowing ovens,” she said.

Watters says the trick to making a delicious turkey is to place onions and an unpeeled orange cut into four pieces inside a turkey. After that, she injects melted butter, chicken broth and thyme into the turkey. From there, she flips the turkey over prior to baking it.

“If you cook it upside down, the juices go inside the turkey breast,” she “It kinds of makes sense. Gravity works.”

Watters will place the birds in the oven for six hours at 275 degrees on Wednesday. Slow cooking makes turkey tasty, she said.

“I think it makes it yummier. I’m going to be cooking a lot on Wednesday,” she said.

Rinehart expects up to 100 volunteers to help cook the dinner. The St. Anthony Rotary Club is also expected to visit and to help cut up the turkeys and hams.

Traditionally, the Lions Club has fed as many as 500 people at the dinner. They come from Ashton to Rexburg and include Brigham Young University-Idaho students, young families, empty nesters, widows, and widowers.

It’s not unusual for large families to attend, Rinehart said.

“We’ve had 38 people in one family visit,” he said. “They called me and said that ‘Mom doesn’t want to cook Thanksgiving this year. Can we come eat with you?’ We set up tables out in the hallway, and they were able to eat together. It was their Thanksgiving, and they gave us a big donation on top of that.”

One thing for sure, is that no one has dinner by themselves, Rinehart said.

“When they come in, we always make sure they don’t eat alone,” he said.

Lions Club members will also deliver food to the homebound as well as to those working on Thanksgiving Day.

“We probably do 200 or more takeout boxes. We do the sheriff’s office. We do the fire department, and anybody we can think of that’s working that day. We try to get a meal to them,” he said.

Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries says that the Thanksgiving meals are appreciated.

“We have people that are working here around the clock. It’s nice when somebody brings them a meal,” he said.

New Lions Club member Cheri Galloway noted that the community has donated a substantial amount of money to help cover the costs of the dinner this year.

“People have been really generous,” she said.

As a new member, Galloway says she’s thrilled to see the community come together on Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s one amazing, beautiful thing — our community gathering together, rallying together as friends and neighbors of different denominations, different backgrounds and being able to spend time together,” she said.

For more information on the dinner or in receiving a delivered dinner on Thanksgiving call 208-390-6537 or 208-624-7861.