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Are you stressed just thinking about trying to keep your turkey moist, mashing your potatoes into a pleasant purée and sweetening your cranberries to perfection?

Alison Ecklund
Larson newspapers

Are you stressed just thinking about trying to keep your turkey moist, mashing your potatoes into a pleasant purée and sweetening your cranberries to perfection?

Now imagine not cooking one turkey, but at least 45, and instead of one pot for boiling potatoes, you’ll need enough for 60 bushels.

Now imagine doing it all for free.

For the past 23 years, Sedona Elk Lodge volunteers have been providing a free Thanksgiving dinner to the community.

On Thursday, Nov. 22, the Elks will continue the tradition and offer a free Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 3 p.m.

Linda Carlson, esteemed leading knight for the Elks, said they serve around 1,000 people each year and deliver food to police officers, firefighters, nurses and military personnel on duty.

They also put together 150 boxes of food for Meals on Wheels to deliver to homes.

Volunteers work in three shifts, with the preparation shift starting at 10:30 a.m. and the clean-up shift starting at 3:30 p.m.

Most volunteers are Elks members, but a lot of people who come to eat end up sticking around to clean up.

Carlson said community members from all walks of life attend the dinner and not all are looking for a free meal.

Some people come every year just because they love the meal and those who can afford to, drop some money in the donation box.

The meal is free, but donations are accepted and any money collected goes toward buying the food that the Elks have purchased with money donated by Elk members.

“Some put 50 cents in, some put $50,” Carlson said. “But they do not have to donate, it’s free.”

Although Carlson has been busy with the free dinner for the past five years she is still enthusiastic about it.

“It warms the heart,” she said.

As soon as the Elks wrap up their free Thanksgiving dinner they begin preparations

for Clothe a Child on Saturday, Dec. 8, along with the

Masonic Lodge.

The Elks and Masonic lodges talk to local school nurses to discover needy children in the area. Then they invite these kids and their families to breakfast.

After breakfast, each Elk member pairs with one child and they board a bus to Wal-Mart in Cottonwood, where each child is given $100 to spend on warm winter clothing.

Carlson said the bus ride to Cottonwood is always filled with singing. “Jingle Bells” and “God Bless America” are the kids’ favorites.

When they return to the lodge Santa Claus makes a visit and hands out candy and nuts to the 40 or so kids.

Lunch is served and, to top it all off, the Marines show up with two or three toys for each kid.

One mother of three thanked Carlson for inviting her kids to Clothe a Child and told Carlson that without this event, her kids wouldn’t have Christmas.

Carlson said the Elks are requesting donations for jackets for boys and girls, ages 6 to 12.

“Elks care, Elks share,” Carlson said. “We earn so we can give it away.”



Alison Ecklund can be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 125, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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