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Thanksgiving in the Valley turns 30
November 21, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
In the early 1980s, the general manager and sales manager at KNEB radio came up with an idea to offer a Thanksgiving dinner for people who had nowhere else to go or couldn’t afford a meal.
In 1984, Thanksgiving in the Valley started a holiday tradition of serving free Thanksgiving meals to the community.

“It was like a community Thanksgiving dinner where you could go and talk with people,” said KNEB News Director Kevin Mooney, one of the early organizers.”That’s still the idea behind the event, but once we started delivering meals, it just grew and grew.”

Today, Thanksgiving in the Valley serves about 700 meals, equally divided between delivered meals and people coming for the event.

The first Thanksgiving in the Valley event was held in both the Mayflower Moving and Storage building on the Beltline Highway and at the Guadalupe Center on East 9th St. in Scottsbluff.

“We found out the need was in southeast Scottsbluff,” Mooney said. “Most of the people we fed came to the Guadalupe Center. The next year it was only at the Guadalupe Center and it’s been there since that time.”

Fr. Phil Flott, priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, said the event lets everyone know they don’t have to be alone on Thanksgiving. “Even us priests have been there,” he said. “It’s a wonderful time, a feast of real love. You can feel it in the air.”

About 100 local people volunteer their time each year to help make Thanksgiving in the Valley a reality – from delivery drivers to cooks to servers.

“We’re really fortunate the community has really stepped up,” Mooney said. “All the food is paid for and with all the sponsors; we’ve been able to assist the Guadalupe Center with purchasing some new tables and kitchen equipment.”

Volunteers start arriving at the Guadalupe Center about 8:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.

Students from Gering Junior High help get the room set up. Drivers are out the door to deliver meals between 10 – 11 a.m. and meals are served at the center from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

For many years, entire families return every Thanksgiving to volunteer at the event. “Even as a priest, it boggles my mind,” Fr. Flott said.
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