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Thanksgiving 'Feast' in Inner Southeast still open to all

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It's open to all -- an annual community celebration, regardless of need


DAVID F. ASHTON - A half-dozen volunteer served a complete Thanksgiving dinner, including two entrees and side dishes, at no charge, to over 500 guests at the Mt. Scott Community Center. Diners and volunteers alike were anticipating the now-annual Thanksgiving Day tradition called "Feast for Southeast", with 2016 being its seventh year – it's still held on the day itself, at Portland Parks & Recreation's "Mount Scott Community Center". This year Thanksgiving fell on November 24.

Even though founders Rob and Carolina Selva have stepped back from the project, volunteers have stepped forward to make sure it continues to thrive, smiled Project Director Kendall Palmer. "In fact, for the last five years, many volunteers have wanted to start an official nonprofit organization – so we can serve our community in more ways, and in more places."

So it is that, now, the Feast for Southeast is held under a new banner – "Gather". This organization includes "Project Socks" and "Project Bookworm" – both which have actively participated at recent Feast for Southeast gatherings.

"We also want to work with new projects, such as gardening and music, expanding into the community and bringing people together," Palmer said. "There are so many people who want to volunteer; we want to provide more opportunities year 'round. We expect to host additional activities in 2017."

As she told about the new organization, a steady stream of volunteers came into the Community Center, and the kitchen crew started unloading food.

They'd planned to serve 700 people during the afternoon, but the day's heavy downpour – Thanksgiving was the second-rainiest day of the year, to date, in Southeast Portland – reduced the number of guests who found their way to the event somewhat. "We have about 300 volunteers involved in this, so it's almost a two to one ratio of volunteers to participants," Palmer remarked.

Returning this year was Chef Melissa Payne of "KitchenCru Culinary PrepSpace", who oversaw the food preparation for the Feast, including:

· 137 pounds of ham

· 170 pounds of turkey

· 80 pounds of glazed carrots

· 216 pounds of mashed potatoes

· A whole lot of dressing

As the guests were being served, Chef Payne paused to comment to THE BEE that the Feast for Southeast is now her Thanksgiving Day "home", and she is already looking forward to next year. "When I was a teenager, I lost my mother; ever since then I really haven't had a place to go for Thanksgiving Day," Payne reflected.

"Once I found out about 'Feast', and heard that they needed a chef, I was happy to step in," she added. "I'd rather spend the day with 800 strangers than spend it alone – I just love seeing the smiles on their faces, as they receive a fresh hot Thanksgiving Day meal."

Even though some of those who arrived looked uncomfortable about its being a free dinner – it still is open to all, regardless of need – almost all of the guests were cheered by the upbeat attitude of the volunteers, some of whom were designated as "table hosts" to chat with the folks who were dining alone.

Other volunteers served beverages, and still others provided desserts, delivered right to the table.

"We want everyone who comes here to feel like they're getting treated to a great dinner, as if served in a really good restaurant," Chef Payne explained. "It's more than charity; it's about building community together!"

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- FACTBOX -

This year's sponsor Honor Roll for "Feast for Southeast":

Southeast Uplift ~ Portland Parks

Great Harvest Bread in Clackamas

Marsee Bakery ~ New Seasons Market

Trader Joe's Market ~ Hope City Church

Scratch Made Market ~ Papaccino's Coffee Shop

Space Monkey Coffee ~ Pacific Foods

Starbucks ~ Kitchen Cru

Access Community Church

Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association

Portland Police Sunshine Division

And, you can find out more about the new nonprofit "Gather" by visiting their website: www.gatherportland.org