VIRGINIA — Michelle Walter, Jamie Winger and their crews are cooking for 300 people this Thanksgiving.
That means roasting 35 turkeys.
But it will all be worth it to provide the community with one big Thanksgiving celebration open to anyone who could use a place to go this holiday.
Truly everyone is invited, the couple emphasized. A free meal of turkey and all the trimmings will be served at the first-ever community Thanksgiving Dinner, set for 1 to 5 p.m. (or until food runs out) Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, at Miners Memorial Building in Virginia.
The event is hosted by Walter’s local ladies social club, “The Iron Range Betties,” and the group’s “brother club,” Winger’s “Twisted Rides” car club.
The Iron Range Betties is a group of area women who empower one another, enjoy dressing in pin-up attire, embrace the Rockabilly subculture, and is focused on volunteering in the community and supporting local charities.
Walter is also owner of the Speakeasy Salon, located at the large garage along Railroad Avenue in Virginia owned and operated by Winger’s business, Malicious Cycles.
The Iron Range Betties and Twisted Rides work together during the annual Speakeasy Car, Truck and Bike Show held in September. The show, which includes hand-built trophies and raffle baskets, raises money to help Range neighbors.
This year, the groups decided to put funds toward the community Thanksgiving meal, which Walter and Winger hope will be an annual event. Donations for future gatherings will also be accepted at the dinner.
“Michelle and I are both veterans,” Winger said, and they had heard about a local VFW’s Thanksgiving dinner “that ran out in 20 minutes. … If they ran out in 20 minutes, there is a need for more than one.”
While the community dinner is open to everyone, he and Walter said they hope veterans do show up, along with those who may be feeling alone, such as widowers, or people who are struggling with mental health issues like as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The dinner is more about community and socialization, “and mental health,” than hunger, Winger said.
The turkey meal will include potatoes, gravy, dressing, corn, dinner rolls, and a pumpkin square dessert.
Walter said the atmosphere will be “family-stye — nice and cozy.” There will also be a kids table with activities for children.
Individuals and businesses in the community have stepped in to support the effort, said the organizers.
The City of Virginia donated space at Miners Memorial Building.
United Steelworkers union locals contributed funding, as did private donors.
F&D Meats, of Virginia, is helping with the turkeys and potatoes, and will store and thaw the Thanksgiving birds. Some employees at ArcelorMittal Minorca Mine who received turkeys are donating theirs to the celebration, as well, Winger said.
SuperOne Foods is assisting with the dinner rolls and dessert. And McDonald’s is contributing coffee and beverages.
Bark Design & Screen Printing in Chisholm made the T-shirts servers and ushers will wear, and Mesabi Sign Co., of Virginia, provided the signs and banners.
If any food remains, it will be donated to local organizations, Walter said.
Walter and Winger said members of the Iron Range Betties and Twisted Rides are grateful to have the chance to give back to the community, especially on a day that is all about giving thanks.
The only thing they want to “receive” is to see “everyone come together to eat and have a good time,” Walter said.