NORMAN — One of the most American of America’s holidays, Thanksgiving Day, was born in 1621 when Pilgrims celebrated a successful harvest with the Native Americans of the Wampanoag tribe.
Norman’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner is a representation of that shared feast. Hosted at Norman Public High School, the neighborly gathering allows residents to transcend their differences for one day while they break bread together in gratitude.
For some, it’s a day to give back to those less fortunate. For others, it’s a chance to rub shoulders with others in the community at all strata of the economic spectrum. For yet another segment of the population, it’s the best meal they get all year.
Food and Shelter hosts the annual November meal and has for years. Now, the United Way, the city of Norman, the Salvation Army and Norman Public Schools help with the event.
“This has grown so big, we can’t do it by ourselves anymore,” said April Doshier, Food and Shelter executive director.
Last year, 800 meals were served on site and 200 meals were distributed by Meals on Wheels.
“We planned for more than that this year,” Doshier said.
Organizers sent out 250 meals this year, with 60 meals added for people in east Norman who are still struggling after the May 19 tornado. Those 60 meals will be coordinated with Hilltop Baptist Church.
In addition to the partner agencies, many people and groups donate to make the event a success. Forty turkeys were donated from Culinary Kitchens in Oklahoma City, where the ovens can cook a turkey in 20 minutes, Doshier said. For the third year, Gigis Cupcakes sent over dozens of cupcakes. La Baguette donates bread.
“It’s one of the most beautiful community events that you can see,” Doshier said.
The dinner feeds people in a broad range of ages from elderly members of the community who don’t want to eat alone, to middle class families, to teens, children and a growing homeless population.