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St. Ed volunteers serve up hot meals on Turkey Day

Volunteer Mike Lulay spent Monday afternoon carving up turkeys for St. Edward Catholic Church’s annual Thanksgiving Day meal program. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Mike Lulay is the resident gravy master in St. Edward Catholic Church’s mission to make certain everyone had a meal to be thankful for Thanksgiving Day.

“There can’t be any lumps,” said Lulay. “It’s dumpling-free and we get all the fat off the broth. We stir the broth in five gallons at a time and 50 gallons later, we’re done.”

Each year, volunteers at the church prep and deliver more than 1,000 meals to area residents with a focus on elderly and shut-in individuals, but the goal is higher than simply providing a hot meal.

“We want high-quality hot meals that would be close to what you’d get at a restaurant,” said Mike Welter, who coordinates the effort with wife Debi. “We really strive for that quality, getting the turkey as moist as possible and getting the gravy pristine as possible.”

The Welters burn one of their vacation weeks every year to make room for the hours the campaign requires.

“The biggest challenge is keeping people moving,” Welter said. “When you have people donating their time, you want to make sure it feels like it was used effectively.”

One volunteer, Phil Worthington, also takes vacation and travels all the way up from Albany to pitch in throughout the week.

During the run-up to Thanksgiving Day, eight to 10 volunteers a day spend the better part of the week cooking turkey–nearly 1,200 pounds of it this year–prepping 400 pounds of stuffing and mashing potatoes. In addition to the 1,000 meals that will be delivered to residents, another 200 will visit the church for a sit-down meal.

“It’s a lot of irons in the fire,” Welter said.

This year, Renaissance Inn donated use of its kitchen to help with the turkey prep.  Albertson’s, Capitol Auto Group and Sysco Foods contributed food to the cause.

The effort is underwritten by the church’s general fund and special collections during the month of November.

The Welters took over the coordination as a way to give back to their community, a feeling that was echoed by volunteer Beth Nevue.

“I have a little time and there’s a great need. I’ve been given a great many blessings in my life and we need to pay those blessings forward,” she said.

Like any good Thanksgiving meal, there tends to be leftovers. Those are taken down the street to Salem’s Union Gospel Mission, spreading the holiday spirit across city boundaries.