GUERNSEY—It began as an idea based in some childhood memories of kindness shown to his family. By the time it was over, Darek Farmer had confirmed his feelings about the blessings of living in a community where people still come together to share and look out for each other.
On November 5th, Darek used the Guernsey Classifieds page on Facebook to explain what it meant to him so many years ago when a holiday food basket was delivered to his family. Now as an adult, he wrote about his realization that a single stranger’s knock at the door then was actually an entire community reaching out to share and help.
Hoping to continue and build on providing Thanksgiving dinners, a project previously done by the volunteer fire department, Darek proposed the idea of a community Thanksgiving dinner in his Facebook post. Despite the fact that time was now a factor with Thanksgiving just a little under three weeks away, the response was immediate and overwhelming. Within minutes, Darek’s post garnered multiple offers by people from the area to serve, donate, deliver or help in any way needed and the idea went from a mere proposal to a fevered work in progress.
After making some contacts, Guernsey-Sunrise Schools agreed to the use of their lunchroom and kitchen, work schedules were prepared and sign-up sheets were distributed throughout the community.
Despite lacking the time to get a hard count on just how many meals they should prepare, a “guestimate” was made based on the size of the community as well as the expertise of someone who had experience with a similar project in another locale and plans were made to cover approximately 300 meals.
The grocery list included 15 turkeys weighing 22 pounds each, 100 pounds of potatoes, 80 pounds of yams, 60 pounds of vegetables, 300 dinner rolls, 54 boxes of stuffing mix, and 60 cans of cranberry sauce. Wyoming Child and Family prepared 300 servings of dessert and provided drinks. It took two 12-hour days to prepare the entire meal and at 11 a.m. on Thursday, the serving began.
Some of Guernsey’s younger volunteers between the ages of three and 12, along with some parental assistance, took a turn at serving. At noon, cadets from the Wyoming Cowboy ChalleNGe program took over the serving duties.
For those that couldn’t get to the school, meals were delivered. In addition to those who had signed up, volunteers took meals to clerks who were working at the convenience stores and the Guard Camp security personnel.
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the mess hall at Camp Guernsey was closed Thursday, the place that usually provides daily meals to the ChalleNGe cadets. With no place else available to feed them, the Cadets ended up getting another great meal, digging into the leftovers for their evening meal. Darek noted that he was especially happy to be able to help feed the cadets twice that day in return for all they have done for the community throughout the years. The Cowboy ChalleNGe program has provided community service in multiple events including Winter’s Eve, Fourth of July, Guernsey Easter Egg Hunt, Hartville’s Fireman’s Auctions, Walk Across Wyoming, and various clean-ups at Heimbuck Park, the rodeo grounds, the fire hall and others. The community service component is a critical piece of the Cowboy ChalleNGe program in teaching young people the importance of giving back to their community and many cadets say it is their favorite part of the program as well.
When the pans were all washed and the final numbers were added, the group served 222 noon meals and an additional 82 that evening. Organizers found they had not only fed a great meal, but also hit the mark on planning as there was virtually no food left over or even a single serving wasted. Given the limited amount of time to plan, organize and prepare, it was an impressive accomplishment.
Even as the serving began, donations continued to come in and all of the excess donated is being passed along to the Guernsey Lions Club for local distribution in their Christmas baskets in a few weeks.
Darek praised some of the events primary supporters and donors including Guernsey-Sunrise Schools, the Town of Guernsey, Wyoming Child and Family, Winchester Farms, Hub City Motorcycle Club, Tri-City Parks and Recreation, and the Guernsey Marketplace, who special ordered 15 turkeys that were thawed and ready for preparation on Wednesday.
Darek estimated the individual volunteer count to be around 100 for the entire project, noting that at times, it was a challenge to keep everyone busy.
With the outstanding response to this year’s efforts, plans are already in the works to continue the event next year. The Cowboy ChalleNGe program and Wyoming Child and Family have already offered to assist again.
A huge undertaking to be sure, Darek is pleased to know that through all of the volunteer efforts made in the past four weeks, he has been able to play a part in paying it forward in the community that helped his own family so long ago. And it all began with just a knock on the door.