ORR – In early November 2008, Darleen Johnson, Joel and Lori Astleford, and the Rick and Wendy Deatherage family, decided to invite members of the Orr community to join them at Calvary Lutheran …
ORR – In early November 2008, Darleen Johnson, Joel and Lori Astleford, and the Rick and Wendy Deatherage family, decided to invite members of the Orr community to join them at Calvary Lutheran Church for a Thanksgiving dinner. The Astlefords had been volunteering at the Cook Community Thanksgiving Dinner since 2005 and thought there might be a few people in the Orr area who would appreciate a home cooked meal.
“We put an ad in the paper, hung a few flyers, and had no idea if anyone outside the family would join us,” says Lori Astleford.
Little did she and the others know the event would be a massive success. That first year, they served a total of sixty-five dinners, including those for their own families. When they arrived at the church prior to the event, however, things hadn’t looked all that promising.
“Thanksgiving morning, we woke up to a snowstorm and a foot of snow,” says Lori. “We could hardly get into the church.”
Despite concerns that the weather would keep people away, they carried on with their plans, and two hours later, were greeted by a pleasant surprise. Local resident Jim Holman showed up to plow the parking lot, and Shawn and Trudy Halverson’s sons were soon shoveling the sidewalk and church steps. They were also joined by their first two volunteers, Robert Johnson and Marilyn Grilley.
The following year, they decided to move the dinner to the Orr Legion, now the Orr Community Center, which is where it still takes place to this day. Individuals come from all over the area to enjoy the company of others while sharing a hot meal. Volunteers also pack and deliver “meals to go” to those who can’t make it to the community center, those who prefer to eat at their own table, and local businesses that are open on Thanksgiving Day. They have delivered to homes in Elephant Lake, Gheen, Buyck, Orr, and Nett Lake, making it clear that they are willing to go the distance to ensure as many people as possible are able to enjoy the holiday.
According to Lori, those who attend the event each year seem to enjoy it. A children’s area with coloring, crafts, and toys is set up each year to keep the children occupied while parents enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee and a slice of pie. Friends and neighbors are able to catch up with one another without the stress that often accompanies holidays, and the volunteers love to see the genuine gratitude on the faces of those who attend and receive meals. Altogether, it’s a day where community members can get together and bask in the positivity and grateful spirit of the holiday.
This year will mark the 11th annual Orr Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Those who were originally involved are still working hard to make the holiday special for the entire community. They’ve also gained a multitude of volunteers over the years, and receive help from local businesses through donations of turkeys, supplies, newspaper ads, and finances.
“None of this would be possible if the local businesses did not help us out, along with the many volunteers,” says Lori. “They know the routine and keep it moving smoothly every year.”
The Orr Lions have also gotten involved in the dinner as a co-sponsor, since many of the volunteers are also members of the Lions. Lori also gave a “big shout out” to those who donate pies each year. According to her, everyone looks forward to dessert.
“They just seem to show up every year,” she says, “and we are so thankful for those delicious pies.”
Lori, as well as the others involved, encourage everyone to join them this Thanksgiving Day from 1-3 p.m. at the Orr Community Center for this year’s dinner. She also encourages people to reach out to the volunteers if they or someone they know might benefit from having a meal delivered to their door.
For those who wish to pay it forward, there will be a collection box for donations to families in need during the Christmas season. This collection is coordinated through the North Woods school nurse. Donations for the dinner may be deposited to the Orr Thanksgiving Dinner account at American Bank or mailed to Orr Thanksgiving Dinner, PO Box 247, Orr, MN. 55771. If you have any questions or would like to donate or volunteer, please call Lori at 218-290-1297 or Wendy at 909-900-6626.