Joe Pagenkopf said the fact he’s able to have a traditional Thanksgiving at his house is more than enough reason to be thankful — and motivate him to make an extra effort so others can celebrate heartily as well.
“We have been part of the jökulhlaup gang,” he said, noting his house was almost destroyed by record flooding from Suicide Basin in early August. But thanks to “lots of friends just pitching in” he will be spending the holiday this Thursday at home.
On Saturday morning Pagenkopf was among the dozens of volunteers delivering Thanksgiving food baskets to residents throughout Juneau as part of the annual distribution program by St. Vincent de Paul Juneau. It’s among several local events intended for locals who might not otherwise have the food or companions to celebrate the holiday with.
This is the first time Pagenkopf is participating in the distribution and he said the help he got from others in the past few months caused him to sign up.
Also making deliveries in Juneau for the first time Saturday was Caroline Allen, who moved here recently from North Carolina, but she said it’s part of a tradition she is long familiar with.
“I did it with my dad growing up in North Carolina,” she said.
SVDP Juneau is planning to distribute about 400 baskets based on expected requests, said Dave Ringle, executive director of the local chapter. The work will continue past Saturday’s scheduled deliveries since some people aren’t at home when volunteers arrive and last-minute requests for baskets are common.
“I delivered baskets as late as 7:30 Wednesday night,” Ringle said, referring to last year’s distribution.
Ringle said donations to SVDP for the food drive were similar to past years, as well as for a winter clothing drive SVDP’s local free clothing store is conducting.
Donations for food were also being collected Saturday at Juneau’s two IGA supermarkets by the Southeast Alaska Food Bank for its annual Caring is Sharing Food Drive. Jeremiah Beedle, who as chair of the food bank’s board was helping at the Foodland IGA, said as of 2 p.m. a total of 5,275 pounds of food had been collected for the drive scheduled between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The food bank also distributed several hundred donated hams to about 400 people during its weekly food pantry the Thursday before Thanksgiving, he said.
“We tried to hand out a ham to everyone that was there,” he said.
The food bank also operates as a distributor to food pantries throughout Juneau, some of which have their own distribution events planned before Thanksgiving.
Midday and evening communal meals on Thanksgiving
In addition to efforts to ensure people in need have the makings of a proper Thanksgiving feast, two free events featuring meals and music are scheduled during the holiday.
The first is the annual traditional meal hosted by The Salvation Army Juneau Corps, scheduled this year from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Juneau Yacht Club, with about 500 meals expected to be served, said Gina Halverson, co-leader of The Salvation Army’s local corps.
This year’s guest of honor invited to slice the first turkey is Dick Hand, owner of Alaska Seafood Co, whose longtime involvement with the event includes smoking dozens of turkeys for the feast.
“He has helped cook those turkeys since the day they started doing the community Thanksgiving dinner,” Havlerson said.
Restaurants in town are also donating other foods being served, she said. Live music will also be featured, although by whom is still being confirmed.
New this year is The Salvation Army will provide a shuttle bus from its church on Willoughby Street, near Foodland IGA, to the yacht club more than a mile away at the north end of Aurora Basin Boat Harbor. Last year was the first time the yacht club was used for the event and some attendees without a vehicle and/or experiencing homelessness were forced to make a long walk.
“That was actually something that some a lot of people were like ‘we really need this,’” Havlerson said, adding both a driver and bus were donated for the event.
She said sufficient donations, along with volunteers to help prepare and serve the meal this year, are a blessing. But she noted people interested in helping can still sign up since “we still need a cleanup crew of volunteers.”
The midday communal meal at the yacht club will be followed that evening by a new community gathering of a different sort. Drew Hammond, who recently moved to Juneau from Hawaii where he owned a venue for concerts and other events, is organizing a Friendsgiving gathering from 4-8 p.m. Thursday at the log cabin at Savikko Park.
“Because I didn’t know anybody in Hawaii one of the events I did was a Friendsgiving,” he said, referring to his venue. “And it turned out to be like a very large, successful time. And I got to meet so many people.”
Hammond, now working as a manager at SEARHC, said he decided a few weeks ago to try something in a similar spirit in Juneau, reserving the cabin at the park and posting notices on local Facebook pages. The notices ask attendees to bring a dish to share, and indoor/outdoor games are planned during the gathering, a DJ will play various types of music and there will be an open mic session for people wanting to showcase their talents in 10- to 15-minute sets.
He said he’s been contacted by dozens of people interested in attending and/or performing, and many of the people he works with are planning to bring “all different types of ethnic food” in addition to the traditional turkey and ham he plans to provide.
As for the entertainment, while much of that will be determined by those who sign up, Hammond said he can guarantee a scorching finale since his girlfriend, Christy Zaide, is a fire dancer who has performed with the Alaska Fire Circus and others.
“Coming here she hasn’t really found a community that does that here,” he said, adding the hope is that might be among the new acquaintances made during the gathering.
• Contact Mark Sabbatini at email@example.com or (907) 957-2306.