The Thanksgiving holiday was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, leading to the cancellation of Powell’s annual community dinner and other disruptions to planned …
The Thanksgiving holiday was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, leading to the cancellation of Powell’s annual community dinner and other disruptions to planned gatherings.
Like many in town, Tim Seeley, his wife Lynnae and their five children faced a disappointing holiday in isolation.
“I was just kind of down,” Lynnae said, recalling thinking, “It’s just going to be another day. You can’t do anything.”
On Facebook, she saw the notice that the community meal had been canceled. In the comments, besides the normal political disputes, there were also people who had nowhere else to turn for Thanksgiving. Lynnae saw elderly people who were facing a lonely holiday, or people who lived elsewhere and were worried what their elderly parents here in Powell would do without the community gathering.
That’s when she and Tim came up with a way to make the holiday more lively.
For the past 11 years, the couple has prepared the Fat Tuesday meal for the Powell Medical Foundation’s Mardi Gras fundraiser. So, the Seeleys decided to put their catering skills to use to bring some joy to the community. For those who, for whatever reason, couldn’t get a meal this Thanksgiving, the Seeleys cooked and delivered one.
“We’re hardly scratching the surface of what the community has done with the community meal, but hopefully we are hitting home with the people most in need and least able to find an alternative,” Tim said before Thanksgiving.
They posted on the Powell Valley Exchange Facebook page that they would offer 20 delivered meals for those who couldn’t cook, couldn’t afford a meal, or were otherwise stuck without other options on the holiday. However, “it really became very large, very quick,” Tim said.
“All of the sudden, all these people said they’d donate,” Lynnae added.
As the food donations poured in, the Seeleys increased the total meals to 30 and eventually arrived at 42, which was about all they had the capacity to prepare.
“WOW there has been such a great response here! I never expected for people to donate the food for this. It was our gift to our community,” Lynnae wrote in the comments on Powell Valley Exchange,
Lynnae said people asking for the meals called and explained why they needed it delivered.
“I think they felt like they needed to give their story and why they had a need for it. They really didn’t have to explain,” she said.
There was one man whose daughter was in a wheelchair; another was an 83-year-old woman on oxygen who has been quarantined for seven months.
“It makes it feel very worthwhile for us,” Tim said.
In the comments on their post, there are more stories.
“My grandmother could use this meal. We are all working this year,” one person wrote; Lynnae replied, asking them to call and set up a delivery time.
Another woman said her elderly stepmother is alone this year and would love to have a meal delivered.
The Seeleys had lots of people offer to help cook as well, but as part of efforts to stay safe from the novel coronavirus, they had to decline the kind offers. They did, however, need drivers to deliver food, and two people stepped up.
Lynnae got a call from the Powell Senior Center, which knew of someone in Ralston who needed a meal delivered. She posted a request for a driver to deliver that one meal on Thanksgiving. “It wasn’t a minute, and I had a response,” she recalled.
The Seeleys also had one person who took a meal out to someone in need in Clark.
The plates included turkey and dressing, sweet and mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, and of course, cherry, cranberry and pumpkin pies. The Seeleys also served up corn maque choux — a cajun dish that has corn, bacon, peppers, onions, celery and cajun spices. “With just enough brown sugar to take a little bit of the heat and make it sweet and hot,” Tim said. “It’s divine.”
About 20 people donated food for the effort. That included four turkeys, which exceeded the number of ovens the Seeleys had to cook them. So, one man offered his own oven to help. Another person donated $20 worth of Chamber Bucks — gift certificates that can be used at participating Powell businesses — for each household that received a meal.
“No matter what else is happening, we all have plenty to be thankful about,” Tim said. “This was a really easy way to put a face on that message.”
He said the meals weren’t just about helping those who would otherwise have no other options for the holiday. After this very difficult year, Tim hoped it would bring people together.
“To see the community come out and say ‘I can help. I want to be a part of this,’ with no concern about what your politics are or how you feel about COVID,” he said. “It was just good to see us act like Park County, Wyoming, again.”