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Home-style, done curbside

North Liberty’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner adapts to the pandemic
A line of vehicles snakes its way through the parking lot at South Slope Cooperative Communications in North Liberty Thursday, Nov. 26, as a free drive-through Community Thanksgiving Dinner gets underway.

NORTH LIBERTY– Thanksgiving is a holiday steeped in tradition, but like just about everything you can think of, it too has been altered this year by fears of the COVID-19 virus. Case in point, for nine years people in North Liberty gathered at the South Slope Cooperative Communications facility on North Front Street for a free Thanksgiving dinner.
Amanda Engstrom, customer service team lead at South Slope, has organized the community dinner since its inception. “I used to volunteer at a church in Iowa City that did it, and I thought it would be good for North Liberty to have a meal of their own,” she said. “This is our 10th year of having a dinner here, but with COVID this is our first year of doing it curbside, so it’s a little bit different.”
Different, indeed. A line of vehicles stretched along Front Street from Jefferson Street through the parking lot at South Slope in a seemingly never-ending line. Engstrom would ask people in the vehicles how many dinners they needed and take those requests back to the kitchen where the crew (consisting of her family members) boxed up the meals, bagged them, and handed them off to Engstrom’s daughter Kinzie, who whisked them out the door for the curbside delivery. Each dinner was individually boxed and contained a helping of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, a dinner roll and a slice of pumpkin pie.
20 minutes past the scheduled start time of noon, supplies were getting tight, and an emergency call to Hy-Vee (the meal is made possible by donations from businesses in the community, and Engstrom pays Hy-Vee to cater it) was made for more.
“It’s a little overwhelming this year,” she said. “It’s definitely gotten bigger every year, but this year is the biggest it’s ever been.”
Engstrom said 275 meals were served, and unfortunately, “We probably had to turn just as many away.” Typically, she said, 130-140 meals are served to families in need.