Cameron Moses (left) and Dustin Runyon (right)

Cameron Moses (left) and Dustin Runyon (right) each hold up a couple turkeys that have been donated for Only Orchids’ annual Thanksgiving Dinner giveaway at Cha-Bones. Only Orchids in one of several organizations in Havasu focused on making sure everyone in town has a good Thanksgiving meal.

Lake Havasu City does its best each year to make sure nobody has to go hungry on Thanksgiving Day.

It’s a big goal, especially during the current pandemic, but with multiple organizations throughout the community focusing on various aspects of that challenge anyone who needs or wants a holiday meal can find someone ready to provide.

For those who are struggling to afford food for their family, the Havasu Community Health Foundation and St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank can provide the fixings they need to cook a holiday feast. Anyone who can’t cook for themselves, or just doesn’t want to, can pick up all the pre-made meals they need at Cha-Bones courtesy of Only Orchids. Those who need a meal but are homebound can have their Thanksgiving meals delivered by St. Vincent de Paul and Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church. Blondzees is also offering a chance to sit down for a Thanksgiving meal in the restaurant for either those who can’t afford to buy food, or those who are just short on fellowship during the holiday.

“Between all those opportunities anybody who wants Thanksgiving dinner should be able to get it in Havasu,” said Dan Mathews, who is helping organize the homebound deliveries with St. Vincent de Pail and Our Lady of the Lake. “It is amazing what this community does. It is just awesome.”

Havasu Community Health Foundation

The Havasu Community Health Foundation has been busy throughout the pandemic – Manager Colleen Mattinson said the food bank added an additional 57 families in the last month alone. But thanks to extra community support the nonprofit has been able to keep up with the extra demand while still planning to do a little something extra for both Thanksgiving and Christmas

“This town is such a giving town – Lake Havasu is amazing,” Mattinson said. “When covid first started the support this food bank made me just cry – it was wonderful. This is such a giving town. There are so many residents willing to help in so many ways.”

Each year the food bank puts together special Thanksgiving boxes, complete with a turkey, stuffing, peas, carrots, cranberries and other typical holiday foods. Mattinson said they have given out 200 vouchers that guarantee the recipient a Thanksgiving box – which will be distributed on Nov. 19, 20, 23 and 24. She added that she expects to have more than 200 Thanksgiving boxes available this year, and all the extras will be given out to those who didn’t get a voucher.

“My goal is to give everybody a Thanksgiving food box, but I can’t guarantee that,” Mattinson said. “Every year so far we have been able to give everybody something, but I don’t want to promise something I can’t deliver on.”

Mattinson said they could use some additional small items like butter, whipped cream, or a small ham if anyone wants to donate food.

“There is really no wrong thing to donate, although we don’t really want to give out sweet stuff,” she said. “We don’t want to give out candy or chips, we want to give them good wholesome food that is going to fill them up.”

The Havasu Community Health Foundation can always use more volunteers as well, Mattinson said. She said the foundation currently has 35 volunteers helping to distribute the food.

Anyone in need of food is welcome to drive up to the food bank at 1980 N. Kiowa Blvd between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays, except for Wednesday. Mattinson said a current photo ID for everyone 18 and older in the vehicle is required, as well as proof of their address unless they don’t have an address.

“You get a card, you get a welcome letter, and once a month you get a big shopping trip,” she said. “Then the rest of the month you can come and get bread and produce every day we are open.”

Thanksgiving pick up

Only Orchids’ annual Thanksgiving meal giveaways have been going on for longer than the charity has existed.

Founding member Dustin Runyon and Greg Whitmier came up with an idea to help feed those in need on Thanksgiving about seven years ago. Runyon said it started with a small fundraiser amongst their friends, which they raised $250 resulting in five $50 gift cards distributed to those in need. But the tradition quickly grew.

Runyon said once Only Orchids jumped on board about four years ago the effort has gone from raising money to help people buy their Thanksgiving meals to actually cooking up the meals and handing them out to all comers.

“We will give anyone a meal, no questions asked,” Runyon said.

The Only Orchids event will be back at Cha-Bones this year, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Although nearly everything seems to have changed during the covid-19 pandemic, Cha-Bones owner Cameron Moses said no changes were needed for their operation because it is already held outside the restaurant.

Moses said there will be a line in the parking lot, and Only Orchids members will ask how many meals each person needs, then they will go box up the food and bring it out to them.

Moses said they have distributed about 1,500 meals in each of the last three years, and are expecting to do the same again this year.

All of the turkeys are donated by community members, while the rest of the food is donated by Runyon’s real estate team. Runyon said anyone interested in donating turkey for the event can drop it off at Cha-Bones up until Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving delivery

Our Lady of the Lake and St. Vincent de Paul are organizing a smaller version of Only Orchids’ dinner distribution but are focusing on a specific demographic – the homebound.

Organizer Dan Mathews said that in the past the Catholic church and charity have worked together to provide a sit-down meal in addition to their annual meal deliveries to those who can’t get out of the house. The covid-19 pandemic changed that 25-year tradition a little, but Mathews said the organization felt good about that decision thanks to all the Thanksgiving options throughout town.

“It’s all being covered,” he said. “So that is why we decided to kind of stay in the lane of serving the homebound. Nobody else is really doing that. We have the delivery drivers who have done it in years past – we will need a few more but we will find them.”

Mathews said they are planning to deliver between 200 and 300 Thanksgiving meals this year. He said last year they provided a total of 500 Thanksgiving meals, about 150 of which were delivered.

Mathews said they encourage anyone who is able to get out and about to visit the Only Orchids event, or go to Blondzees for a sit down meal. But anyone who is unable to leave their home, for whatever reason, can still request to have a meal delivered. To sign up call Our Lady of the Lake at 928-855-2685.

A dine-in experience

Blondzees owner Melissa Lucas said their free Thanksgiving meal is open to anyone, whether they are struggling financially or simply find themselves alone for the holiday.

It is a tradition for Lucas at both of her Blondzees locations, although she said her restaurant in Salem, Oregon will be closed for the holiday this year due to an order by Oregon Governor Kate Brown. Lucas said her restaurant in Salem typically has lots of low-income and homeless people stop buy for their Thanksgiving meal but it’s been a little bit different crowd in Havasu.

Lucas said in Havasu many of the people are looking for fellowship, maybe even more than the free food.

“They don’t have anywhere else to go, their family couldn’t get here, they live by themselves, or that sort of situation,” Lucas said.

She said Blondzees provided a total of about 360 Thanksgiving meals last year, including about 130 in Lake Havasu City. Lucas said she doesn’t really know how many people to expect this year.

“The whole dynamics of the town are different because last year at this time there were snowbirds everywhere,” she said. “I tried to talk to as many people as I could last year, but I don’t know where they came from, or if they are going to come back this year.”

Blondzees will be serving their free Thanksgiving meals from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Lucas said masks will be required and social distancing practices will be observed during the dinner.

“If that is still a governor’s order than I need to be in compliance,” she said. “We will still seat every other table, but this restaurant is so large that shouldn’t be an issue. We are ready, and we welcome them.”

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Too old for this

Thanks to all of those involved in this effort. You make Havasu proud!

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