Kazmerski

Kazmerski

On Thanksgiving Day, you’ll likely find Dr. J. Donald Kazmerski at Eagle Hose Company in Dickson City. For decades now, he had led a dedicated group of volunteers to offer up a free turkey dinner to anyone who needs one. He credits a dedicated group of volunteers – including Brian Richards and Judie Sankow-Richards, Jack Horvath and Richard Capwell – for helping make the meal a success. This year’s dinner will take place from noon to 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day at the fire station, 1 Eagle Lane. Here’s what the lead organizer of the annual dinner has to say about his favorite tradition:

Q: When did the Thanksgiving Community dinner start?

A: I began the dinner in 1998 at the Eagle Hose No. 1 fire house in Dickson City. When I was a chiropractic student, I stayed in St. Louis, Missouri, during school breaks so I could work in the local hospital lab. When I worked one Thanksgiving weekend, I went to the city Salvation Army to have dinner. It was free and for the homeless and needy and anyone who was alone or wanted a meal. I saw how many folks there were who needed this dinner, not only for the food, but for the company.

When I returned home, I saw that there was no one in the Mid Valley area doing this. It took a few years to think this through, but in 1998 it was started.

Q: Where do you get the food you serve?

A: Over the years, we have had many volunteers, helpers and restaurants involved. The first few years, it was eight turkeys and all the accompaniments. In the early years, my mother, Felicia, helped with making the cranberry sauce and cooking a few turkeys and dressing. But then I had two former restaurants owners from Dickson city who came here from New York City and they began to donate cooking the turkeys, because they did plenty of turkeys while in New York.

As of last year, (we had) 20 -25 lbs of gravy, four dinner pans of mashed potatoes, five dinner pans of dressing, one pan of veggies, two hams, not to mention dinner rolls and incidentals.

So today, we get turkeys, cranberry sauce, rolls, cookies and pies donated. We buy eight cooked turkeys and the dressing from Schiff’s. Turkeys that are donated, we have help cooking them. We have help cooking the mashed potatoes and ham, too. Main Line hoagie, Cheap Shots, Happy Valley Sports Bar and National Bakery all help out.

We get monetary donations from some folks who wish not to be mentioned and donations from local veteran’s organizations. Some bring the food to the fire house the day of the dinner and I get most of the food from the restaurants the day before.

Q: The event is a lot of work. How can people volunteer to help?

A: We have had, over the years, many volunteers who have come and gone, but some of the long term ones have brought their young children to help because they want to teach their children about volunteering and to show them who needs help. We have volunteers who help set up the night before and those who just show up on Thanksgiving Day to help. They help guide the folks to their table and serve them their food and drinks. They also help with take outs, too. Volunteering, it makes them feel good that they are helping those in need. I’ve gotten to know some of the volunteers and they say that no matter what problems they have, whether it’s health related or other issue, someone can have it worse.

We serve 160-180 meals. We have folks who come to eat that are elderly, alone, veterans and those who don’t want to cook. I can see that the veterans are the ones who really appreciate this dinner most. They come in for the companionship, to talk to us and to their neighbors.

Q: How does it make you feel to see the community come out to help and to eat?

A: This dinner is special for all of us involved. It shows us how lucky we are to have the life we have and to see those who need the companionship and the smiling faces makes us feel good. It’s also good for me personally to see all those who help throughout the years and its gets me in the right mood for the holidays. I feel good to see how many folks we have helped in 23 years of this dinner. You have to remember that most of the volunteers have to go home and either cook their meals or have dinner at relatives. So they are really giving up their time.

Q: When you’re not organizing this massive effort for the community, what do you do?

A: I have been a chiropractor in Dickson City since 1993, I perform CDL /DOT physicals and have been a small business owner and a Dickson City councilman for two terms. I like to golf and I started a You Tube channel called NEPA Politics.