Free food and fellowship were featured, along with traditional Thanksgiving dinners, at several locations Thursday including Stewart Community Baptist Church and the Carson Nugget in Carson City.
At the church, the Rev. Wayne Ellison was so busy he put his T-shirt on backwards, bringing laughter from the people who came to share the holiday meal that took 10 church volunteers, Ellison and his wife, Shelly, to prepare.
The church reaches out every Thanksgiving to those who don't have family in the area, Ellison said, particularly the homeless. Not only are residents of the area's homeless shelters invited, but church members take the church's van and seek out homeless people in the area who might not have known about the feast.
"We went to Mills Park and picked up some people in the van," Ellison said. "We serve to anyone and everyone. It's very casual, a 'come as you are' sort of thing."
The homeless were joined by church members, volunteers and members of many American Indian tribes, said Ellison, who has been pastor of the church adjacent to the Stewart Indian School for the past four years.
Andres Orozco was happy to have a meal and people to share it with. "It's great," he said, adding that he became homeless after losing his job. "Sometimes you have to take it. You laugh when everything is fine, you cry other times."
Rhonda Fred said she and her family have hit a spate of hard times, and she was grateful for the chance to share Thanksgiving with others.
"We come to church all the time," she said, sitting with her daughter, Lisa, and her two-week-old grandson, Elvin, who slept through his first Thanksgiving dinner. "I always come for Thanksgiving."
She praised the pastor and his wife for their efforts to help those in need. "It's nice that the pastor and Shelly do this," she said. "They are nice people and they always try to help everyone."
Volunteer and church member Jerri Adams said volunteers began cooking the dinner of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole, starting at about noon Wednesday. They also served pumpkin, apple, cherry and pecan pies.
"We worked almost straight through," she said, adding that by 1:30 p.m. they served about 45 meals and had planned for 60.
Adams said leftovers would not go to waste. "We serve meals every Sunday and also Tuesday nights," she said. "We'll freeze this and then make soup."
At the Carson Nugget, a line of about 30 people snaked around the corner of the coffee shop, with hostess Dora Eldred calling out to diners when tables became available.
"Three booths are ready!" she called out, pointing to several people in line. "How many do you have? Four? OK, go ahead."
This went on from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., until the last free Thanksgiving meal was served.
Flo Shook, 81, and her husband, Tom, 82, sat together at a small booth to share their holiday meal. They have lived in Dayton for four years and are regulars at the Carson Nugget's Thanksgiving feast.
"The food is always been good and the service, too," Flo said, adding that she cooked Thanksgiving dinners for "many, many years. I gave all that up."
Jorge Gonzalez of Dayton brought his wife, Yira, and three daughters, Marcela, 7, Gabriela, 6, and Miriam, 10, to the Nugget.
The self-employed father said the family has made a tradition of coming to the Nugget for Thanksgiving for the past five years.
"It saves a lot of work and money," Yira said.
Helen Madrid of Carson City brought her daughter, Anelysa, 2, to the Nugget. "I can't have dinner at home, because I have to work," the Wal-Mart employee said.
Amy Brooks of Carson brought her mother, Margie Binuelas, also of Carson, and Amy's five children: Alexis, 4, Julian, 9, Serena, 11, Grace, 8 and Anthony, 1.
"This is our second year coming," Brooks said. "I like it, I think it's great that they do this."
Mike Balzer, a resident of the Nugget motel, said this was his first Thanksgiving in Nevada. Though he originally hails from Columbus, Ohio, he arrived here recently from St. Petersburg, Fla.
"My sister lives in Dayton, and she talked me into coming here," he said. "It was either that or be homeless."
Balzer, who uses a wheelchair after a failed back surgery left him unable to walk, shared dinner with a stranger who, he said, "didn't talk at all."
He noted the hard work the Nugget employees were doing and said he was going to be sure to leave a nice tip.
Back at the front of the line, hostess Eldred, who has been working the Thanksgiving meal at the Nugget for three years, said people really appreciate their effort.
"You betcha we do!" chimed in Edwina Wiersma, the next person in line. "This is one of the best meals anywhere."
n Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@ nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.