Most Viewed Stories
Thanksgiving dinner is volunteer affair
Families and strangers packed the tables at the Colusa First Presbyterian Church to share a community dinner on Thanksgiving afternoon — the parish hall filled with the odors of a holiday meal and decorated with a festive spirit.
Some of the people would not had any such meal if not for the annual event put on by the Colusa Ministerial Association.
Others, such as Carlan Phillips, just had nowhere else to go.
"I heard about it just yesterday," Phillips said as he waited in line to get his share of turkey and all the trimmings.
"I came up to house sit for a friend of mine. I'm not much of a cook, so I thought this would be a good place for me."
What Phillips did not expect, however, were all the handshakes, wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving and general welcome from not only the volunteers who were putting the event on, but others who were there to eat.
"I've been down on my luck before, homeless and all. It's nice to have a hot meal when it gets cold. But everyone here has been extra nice," Phillips said.
An army of volunteers from various churches in the community united for the event, serving at the church or delivering the meals out into the community.
But not everyone helping were even from Colusa.
John Schmidt of Roseville has been coming to Colusa to duck hunt since he was 12 years old, recently renting a trailer space at the fairgrounds.
His wife, Shelly, is part of the tradition now.
"We were just thinking that instead of just sitting here in our trailer, we should come out and help with something," Shelly Schmidt said.
Another out-of-area hunter, Paul Smith, cooked the turkeys this year.
Pete Chatkara, owner of Chef Colus, provided the potatoes, dressing and green beans for the event, and still others donated more goodies — including a counter full of pies — and their time.
Robin Rauch, the newly elected Colusa treasurer, was the point person for this year's event.
"We've planned for 75 meals," Rauch said.
Rauch said nearly 35 homeless and other people regularly eat at the meals offered three times each week at the church.
She anticipated at least that many others would come, but said there have been years when fewer came and more than anticipated showed up.
Whatever the final count, the volunteers made certain there would be enough food for everyone.
"My girlfriend (Stephanie Ponciano) said they may need some help, so I came out to help," said Russ Hickel.
It is that sense of community that John Vafis believes defines Colusa.
He came to the small farming town from the Bay Area looking for a teaching position. He planned to get a couple of years experience then head back home.
That was 46 years ago, and he never left.
"I think it is the strength of our community," said Vafis, now retired from teaching, and serves as a lay minister at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.
"It's why I never left."
Phillips said he will go back to his church in the Sacramento area and suggest it do something like this next year.
"And I will tell my pastor that the people are more important than the food," Phillips said.