Family tradition comes to an end

Gary Abernathy The Times-Gazette

November 26, 2013

After 14 straight years of providing a free Thanksgiving feast to thousands of guests, the annual Collins Family Thanksgiving Dinner has come to an end.

The dinner was primarily a project of June (Collins) Thompson, but her son Terry Collins said this week that a combination of new regulations regarding the use of kitchens at facilities like the Morgan-Bodenhamer Senior Citizens Center, where the event has been held, and his mother’s advancing age have brought the tradition to an end.

“Mom used to make 60 pies every year for this,” said Collins, with family members and volunteers providing food and other items each season.

But new regulations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture make it nearly impossible for outside groups to make use of kitchens in facilities like the senior center.

Collins acknowledged that with his mom being 86, “It’s kind of a blessing in disguise,” because little would deter her from carrying on the annual event.

Two years ago, the dinner was in jeopardy because Thompson had suffered an injury that led to a hip replacement. But Collins said his mother - after a few days spent recuperating- insisted the dinner go on. On Thanksgiving Day, just a few weeks after hip replacement surgery, she was on hand at the senior center, cooking food and baking the pies, as she was again last year.

Every year, starting at around 11:30 a.m., a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, corn, rolls, and various other side dishes and baked goods were served. Serving maybe 100 or so in its early days, in recent years the event had grown to the point of serving 900 to 1,000 guests by the time the long lines finally wound down at mid-afternoon..

Terry, his brother, Bill, and many other Collins family members, along with friends and volunteers, worked in the kitchen and cafeteria line to keep the food flowing.

As he did in an interview on a recent Thanksgiving, Collins this week again shrugged off the suggestion that the event was a challenging one.

“Not at all,” he said. “This has always been a blessing for us.”