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Thanksgiving ‘orphans’ come together

Press Photo by Katherine Lymn Volunteers serve food at the Dickinson Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday afternoon at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge.

Dickinson residents of all shapes and sizes shared one big meal Thursday.

The Dickinson Community Thanksgiving Dinner, at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge, was a watering hole for those who don’t have others to eat with or just wanted to be a part of the larger community this holiday.

“If you go sit at a table, every person is gonna have a different story, said Janet Johanson, one of the main organizers of the event.

The event was entirely staffed by volunteer staffed and funded by donations.

Johanson said volunteers delivered about 300 meals to people who couldn’t make it to the hotel, and about 100 meals were picked up as takeout for crews on rigs or others that worked Thursday.

In total, volunteers prepared about 1,500 meals, she said.

Then there were the volunteers taking pictures, serving food, delivering meals and more. Local schools contributed baked goods or placemats drawn by children.

Overall, 400 people may have contributed to the event in some way, Johanson said.

Gary Anderson, a helicopter mechanic, is in town until Saturday and is saying at a hotel.

With his home in Knoxville, Tenn., he came to the event because he had nowhere else to go, he said.

“You have a lot of people that just don’t want to eat home alone,” serving line volunteer Don Greff said.

It’s also a way to meet others and become more a part of the community, volunteer Dave Beaudoin said.

“A lot of people come for the fun of it … being a part of the community and getting to know people,” he said.

Natalie and Mathias Menge, who recently moved to Dickinson from Houston for jobs with Marathon Oil, are “kind of like orphans,” with no friends or family in the area yet, Natalie Menge said.

She figured with Dickinson being an oil town, they’d have a lot in common with others at the event and would meet new people.

When food was served around 11:30 a.m., the line stretched long throughout the main ballroom of the hotel, and strangers became friends at the many roundtables decorated for the day.

Perry Unruh ate at the event with his 10-year-old son, Nathan.

The rest of their family was already in Minnesota for the holiday, but “with horses to feed and stuff out on the farm, it’ll work better for us” to go Friday, he said.

Dan Brown, who volunteered as a greeter with wife Peggy and daughter Elizabeth, said in the six or so years the family has volunteered at the event, it seems to have grown.

“It’s just fun to see all the people,” he said. “It’s a better way to spend Thanksgiving.”