From left, Brian Richards; Judie Senkow Richards R.N., and Dr. Donald Kazmerski, who organize the yearly Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Eagle Hose Company Fire Hall.

From left, Brian Richards; Judie Senkow Richards, RN; and Dr. Donald Kazmerski. The trio organizes the yearly Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Eagle Hose Company Fire Hall in Dickson City.

This year marks the 22nd year that the Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner takes place in Dickson City, which has grown over the years.

It started when Doctor J. Donald Kazmerski, a Chiropractor from Dickson City, was in chiropractic school in St. Louis, Missouri. He could not return home for the holiday because of work, so he had Thanksgiving dinner at the local Salvation Army. He was amazed how many people were being served and how genuinely happy they were.

When he returned to the area, he saw that there was a need for this in the Midvalley. So, in 1998, the first dinner was held. It seemed like there were more volunteers than people for dinner.

A local restaurant prepared four turkeys. Doctor Don and his mother, Felicia Kazmerski, and a few others assisted with the dressing, mashed potatoes and vegetables.

For the past 20 years, Dr. Kazmerski has teamed up with Judie Senkow-Richards along with her husband, Brian Richards, who joined the team a few years ago. Judie immediately added decorations, which added to the holiday festivity.

Brian has been in charge of donations and also puts his history as a short order cook at his family’s restaurant to good use, helping out in the kitchen.

Donations have come from the VFW No. 7251 in Throop and the American Legion Post 665 and The Sons of the American Legion No. 665 Dickson City and the VFW No. 5937 Dickson City. We are honored to have many veterans share their holiday with us.

Judie is still in charge of decorations, publicity and volunteers. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, Judie, a Registered Nurse has researched how to safely distance tables per CDC guidelines. Both guests and volunteers will be screened, per CDC recommendations. This will include temperature checks, and a COVID-19 screening questionnaire. All tables and chairs will be cleaned in between guests.

The dinner is held at the Eagle Hose Company Fire Hall, who donates the space. The dinner now serves eight to 10 turkeys with all the trimmings — stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetable, cranberry sauce (traditionally donated by Tony and Georgia Adamitis), ham prepared by Happy Valley Sports Bar and a variety of pies as well as soft drinks, coffee and tea.

We would be lost without our donors. And over 20 some years there has been many, including Smiler’s, AJ’s Club Soda, Pioneer Beverage, Angie’s Pizza, Mainline Hoagie, Krieger Construction, Red Line Towing, Johnson’s Towing, Andy’s Pizza and many anonymous monetary donations.

Our volunteers, too, have changed. It is hard to imagine that some are grown and have children and sadly, some have passed.

I think it is the guests that touch us the most. There was one woman that came every year who was rather loud. Her presence was never mistaken. She is one guest I will never forget. I was sad when I heard she had died. You really do get attached to the guests you see every year.

Brian, a member of the Sons of American Legion and the Honor Guard, will come out of the kitchen and will usually head over to a veteran and sit and talk with them. Some of the veterans are from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War as well as more recent conflicts.

There are folks who come to dinner who are alone, do not want to cook for one or two people, or want to see old friends. We have people show up before we are ready to serve and stay until we are taking down the tables. One year we had an entire family because their oven broke in the middle of fixing the dinner. And that is OK!

That is why we are here. People choose to spend their Thanksgiving with us and to us, that is an honor.

This year’s Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner will take place from 12 to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day at the Eagle Hose Company Fire Hall, 1 Eagle Lane, Dickson City. There will be live music by the award-winning The Frost Duo. Takeout dinners start at 12:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome.