Volunteer Serah Mead (left) and WabiSabi executive director Mandy Turner at last year's WabiSabi Thanksgiving dinner. [Courtesy photo]

With politics (hopefully) aside, Thanksgiving is a time when friends and family sit down and enjoy a meal together.

Moab residents are invited to share a traditional turkey dinner with one another during WabiSabi’s annual Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, Nov. 24, from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West.

The free or by-donation meal includes the standard fare – turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, rolls and plenty of pies. Plus, for vegetarians, there will be a vegetarian curry dish, donated by Singha Thai Cuisine in Moab.

Sweet Cravings and other businesses will donate desserts, WabiSabi Executive Director Mandy Turner said. Members of the Youth Garden Project will also bake pies for the event. All food donations must be prepared in commercial kitchens.

Four long tables will be set up where diners will take a seat wherever and whenever one becomes available. A homeless person may end up sitting next to a city council member.

“We encourage people to mix and mingle,” Turner said. “We mishmash everybody together. It’s part of the fun.”

By opening the dinner to everyone, community members have an opportunity to meet those with whom they might not otherwise cross paths, Turner said.

For Turner, the event has become an opportunity to visit with former neighbors she rarely sees.

“They come every year for Thanksgiving, (a cue) that it’s time for me to take a break to sit down with them,” Turner said. “It’s become a tradition.”

Chef Ken Moody is returning this year after a two-year hiatus from cooking; before that hiatus, he served as the chef for the Thanksgiving meal eight years prior.

The annual dinner has grown from serving approximately 200 people the first year, to an expected 750 individuals in 2016, Moody said.

The effort used to be more chaotic, he said, with turkeys roasting in ovens “all over town.” These days, he prepares everything at the Grand Center’s commercial kitchen.

“I have a good time doing it,” Moody said. “I get a lot of satisfaction. Everybody eats; everybody is really happy.”

Moody developed a reputation as a good chef during years of volunteerism, including his work for the Youth Garden Project. His efforts evolved into opening his own private chef company, he said.

Moody, along with a staff of three and lots of volunteers, will prepare next Thursday’s meal, which includes 400 pounds of turkey and 300 pounds of potatoes.

WabiSabi is offering a “turkey challenge” to offset costs and make up for grant money the organization did not receive this year. People who pledge a donation of $10, $50, or $100 will have the names of their businesses, organizations or loved ones displayed on the tables.

The community Thanksgiving meal is also made possible by donations from local businesses and individuals. Additionally, approximately 150 volunteers donate their time to help set up, cook, serve and clean up afterward.

To donate financially, visit www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/wabisabi-thanksgiving-turkey-challenge–2. Gift cards to local grocers will also be accepted to help cover food costs. Donations can be submitted online or in person at WabiSabi, 160 E. 100 South.

Free community Thanksgiving dinner comes to Grand Center on Nov. 24

“We encourage people to mix and mingle … We mishmash everybody together. It’s part of the fun.”

When: Thursday, Nov. 24, from 2 to 5 p.m.

Where: Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West

Cost: Free; Donations accepted