For some, serving brings satisfaction

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Martha McNeil hands a plate of food to a fellow volunteer during the Lighthouse Mission’s Thanksgiving meal Thursday. McNeil said she has volunteered on Thanksgiving for five years because she enjoys helping others.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

They spent their Thanksgiving afternoon serving others, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Volunteers maneuvered around each other in the packed kitchen at the Lighthouse Mission on Thursday, some preparing plates, others filling cups with icy beverages and others glided to and from the dining room, bearing heaping plates of food or clearing empty plate from crowded tables.

About 20 volunteers showed up to help serve the annual meal, Rod Bakken said, filling every spare inch of space in the kitchen from the prep area, to the serving line and the sinks where oversized bowls were passed through soap and water.

Retiree Martha McNeil said she has volunteered to serve Thanksgiving meals for the last five years.

She said she gets more satisfaction from it she would from putting on a big production at her home.

“I always like it because I don’t do it at home. I like to help the poor people,” the retired school food service worker said. “I’ve got a lot of places I’ve been invited to go eat, but I like to do this.”

Handing plates to fellow volunteers to be taken to waiting mission guests, retired school teacher Nell Jones said it was her first year volunteering.

“My flippant answer (as to why I’m doing it) is it’s better than cooking,” she said laughing.

“But really, I have so many blessings that it’s kind of fun to do this.”

The meal — 31 turkeys, stuffing, mashed potatoes, dressing gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and an assortment of cakes, pies and cookies —was enough to feed more than 400, Bakken said.

“We’ve got a lot of chow,” the North Dakota native said with a smile.

Bakken, an agriculture worker who gets laid off in the winter, said he and his wife come to Clovis during the cold months of the year and he works as a volunteer at the mission until it’s time to return to their northern home.

Thursday morning the Clovis Fire Department delivered 168 meals throughout the community and hundreds trickled in over a three hour period to eat in at long tables in the dining room.

The mission serves about 60 breakfasts and 120 lunches daily and holds special meals for the holidays, Bakken said.

“We’ll be doing this again at Christmas,” he said, explaining the mission’s goal is to raise enough toys to give to 1,000 children this year in addition to serving a meal.

Retiree Barbara Loewen said she, her husband and two children decided to volunteer at the mission for the first time this year.

All smiles as she carried plates to seated guests, Loewen said, “Since we didn’t have family here, we decided to come and help out.”