A packed house enjoys Thanksgiving on Thursday afternoon at the American Legion.

The friendly refrain “Have you had something to eat yet?” could be heard throughout the American Legion on Thursday, as locals flocked for the organization’s annual Thanksgiving meal.

Club manager Jennifer Roalsen said that it’s their second busiest day of the year (after the Fourth of July), with usually at least 200 people coming in to eat and socialize through the afternoon. 

“Helen (Hartman) gets the credit,” said Roalsen, who’s been the club manager for two years. “She’s been cooking since 7:30 yesterday morning.”

Hartman, who manages the kitchen, has been working at the Legion for 22 years. Hartman said the Thanksgiving meal had been running long before she joined. The meal is always the traditional dish of turkey, stuffing, ham, mashed potato, cranberry sauce, candied yams and a few other side dishes.

Hartman praised the volunteers who helped her cook, saying “There must have been about 10 of us in the kitchen this year.”

This year, the American Legion had 20 volunteers in total, including a clean-up crew and some who help to deliver about 40 meals to members of the Senior Center, the police department and disabled members of the American Legion.

Helen Austerman was among those who helped out for the Thanksgiving meal. Austerman, who’s been volunteering at the Legion for four years, said she helped set up the hall and spent a lot of time “peeling potatoes by the pound,” as well as anything else that needed to be done. 

“It just feels so good to help,” Austerman said. “Now, I’m going home for a nap.”

This year, Kodiak locals pulled out the stops by not only donating all the turkeys and hams, but also providing home-made pies, which were baked by Olga Malutin, Mandy Clark and Kimmy Dolph. 

“I baked pies for three days,” said Malutin, cheerfully.

Randy Zank was among the revelers. Zank, who also volunteers at the Kodiak Baptist Mission food bank, was attending both to help out and have some food. 

“They serve a few hundred people every year, so it’s a great community thing,” he said. “And a great way to get to know your neighbors.”

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