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Cooking 65 turkeys for feeding 1,500 free meal

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Cooking 65 turkeys for feeding 1,500 free meal

Jeff Liotard, left, shows fellow Rotarian Rob Gross how to season the turkeys that will be served at the free community Thanksgiving dinner today at Mountain Mikes Pizza from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED November 22, 2012 12:19 a.m.

The five-gallon buckets were stacked four high against the back wall of the Sierra High cafeteria.

With a special plastic tool in hand, Dana Solomon worked to crack the seal on each of them before handing the heavy orange containers and their precious contents – turkeys soaked in brine – off to the waiting hands of Shawn Nussbaumer.

It was an unlikely assembly line, with Tevani Liotard taking the turkeys and handing them off to Nussbaumer’s two daughters – Allison and Ashlynn – who tackled the tough task of cleaning the birds before they were stacked and readied for the seasoning station.

And all of it was in the name of making sure that needy Manteca residents, families and seniors unable to prepare a Thanksgiving meal on their own could enjoy the same traditional feast as everybody else. It was a joint effort spearheaded by the Sunrise Kiwanis and partners like the Manteca Noon Rotary, the Ripon Rotary and the Lathrop Rotary.

“It was always something that I wanted to do – bridge the gaps between the service groups with something like this,” said Jeff Liotard – who organizes the annual event for the Sunrise Kiwanis but also wears the hat of a Rotarian. “It’s a chance for the community to come together for an event like this.”

To say that Liotard was committed to the event – which is now in its third year – would be an understatement.

He worked until the wee hours of Thursday morning to make sure that everything was just right in the cooking department before heading home and catching a couple of hours of sleep. Then it was time to rise, hit the ground running and head to Mountain Mikes where he will oversaw a team of volunteers – this time spearheaded by his daughters Jaclyn and Mahlynn – tasked with deboning the turkeys.

This year Liotard established an email address – wecookturkeys@comcast.net – so that people that might not be able to make it to the dinner could have the meals delivered. Both Ripon and Lathrop Rotary groups are getting meals delivered, and take out will be available as well.

“We’re going to have three drivers this year that will be out delivering, and we’ll of course have dine in and take out for those who can’t stay,” he said. “It’s set up so that everybody can enjoy it regardless.”

Through his time with other service organizations Liotard has traveled extensively to Central America where he saw poverty on a massive scale.

But he got to see Kiwanis event chairman Brian Mills get his breakdown moment this week when hearing the stories from families who have been affected by circumstances beyond their control – whether it was homeless kids or people living out of their car.

And after learning that there are 2,000 homeless kids in Manteca Unified School District, Liotard worked to see if he could make sure that they and their families make it down for a hot meal. So far 400 have confirmed they’ll be attending.

Others took the news as a chance to reaffirm why they chose to help.

“I enjoy helping the community – it’s a chance to bless the people that are less fortunate and don’t have as much as some people,” said 13-year-old Allison Nussbaumer. “It’s important to be able to sit down and have a Thanksgiving dinner. That’s what this is all about.”

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