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Humming a more generous tune

by Kristi Niemeyer
Editor | December 1, 2022 12:00 AM

Tracy Plaiss, an anchor in the monumental effort to prepare and share 1,600 turkey dinners last Thursday out of the Polson’s Elks Club, told me a few weeks ago, “Thanksgiving is the only holiday we have left in this county that’s only about giving thanks for the things you have. It’s the only one that hasn’t gotten run over and forgotten.”

As implicit to the holiday as gratitude is the attitude of giving back – a steady hum of generosity that seemed to pervade each event I photographed for this week’s paper, beginning with the Turkey Trot, where all of the $5 entry fees paid by walkers and runners goes to the local food bank.

The run offers “an opportunity for the community to come together and give back all in one,” said one of its founders, Tyana Smith.

In Ronan, volunteers carried on a tradition that’s nearly 20 years old as they gathered at the community center to roast 25 turkeys and prepare mashed potatoes and side dishes for a crowd that typically numbers around 250. Inside the center on Thursday, some people sat alone, friends gathered in small groups to reconnect, and entire families spread out at banquet tables.

In the kitchen, Sam and Casey Helmer gave their kids a first-hand lesson in the old adage “it’s better to give than to receive,” with everyone but baby Hazel taking a turn in the serving line.

Meanwhile, a disheveled assembly line worked nonstop in the interior of the Elks Club in Polson, reducing the vats of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and sides into individual portions. Containers were bagged and carried out the front door to people patiently waiting in a line of cars, stretched down Main Street, or out the back door to the delivery crew that dropped them off all over town.

“It’s been a bad year,” one woman told me. “I just didn’t have it in me to cook for my family.”

After all the high-pitched rhetoric of another campaign season, Thanksgiving is both a balm and a good reminder to take heart in the efforts our friends and neighbors made last week to give back to their community. May we all find ways to hum a more generous tune as we head into the holidays.

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