It’s finally feeling a little more like fall in Moab, and suddenly I can only think about one thing: Thanksgiving. It seems like it should be far too early to even say that word, I agree. But we’re two months out, folks, and it’s speeding toward us like a pumpkin from a catapult or a dachshund in a costume (RIP, other favorite fall event). Those who work in the field will agree that the line between nonprofit employee and professional event planner often feels paper thin. Thanksgiving, to put it simply, is an event that requires a pretty thick binder.
If you’re new to town and wondering why a seemingly random organization offers a free meal for roughly 700 people, you’re asking a question I’ve asked myself many times.
The short answer: like so many events in this community, it simply started small and simple, and then kept growing. A few years ago, in fact, it seemed it had grown too much for a few earnest non-profiteers to handle. “We run a thrift store!” I cried. “Why are we handling so much food?”
At some point I was given the power to make the tough calls, and one by one, our year-round meals program was reduced back to a seasonal program, and then hardly a program at all. We cut brunches and the Christmas meal, and then the free summer meals.
On what was supposed to be the last Thanksgiving back in 2016, though, we found ourselves unexpectedly committed. For better or for worse, we realized we had this one thing down to a science: if three people can seamlessly coordinate a chef, 100 volunteers, the distribution of 700 meals, and a very extensive cleanup process year after year, you know you’ve got a good event plan.
On top of that, Thanksgiving has always stood out from the other meals: it’s not about the holiday, or the food, or fundraising. It’s about getting together en masse as a community during a time when it might not make a whole lot of sense to travel far. It’s about pitching in as a community to provide an incredible array of food, drinks and desserts. And because absolutely everyone is welcome to attend free of charge, this event offers a rare opportunity to leave conflicting viewpoints at the door and to sit down next to a person you may have never had a reason to meet.
This is my first year running the event without the expertise of my predecessor, and I feel both entirely unprepared and certain I could do it tomorrow. I know with a special kind of confidence that everyone will come through, as they have year after year. I’m already full of mushy gratitude for the incredible businesses that donate food every year, the 100 or so indispensable volunteers, the generous staff of the Grand Center, power-chef Ken Moody and his incredible crew, and the amazing family spirit of WabiSabi that compels me to work through the holidays.
I know that at the end of the day when I’m eating cold leftovers on the floor of my office, deep into a box of wine and surrounded by a disarray of chafing dish parts, I will be smiling. Working on a holiday can be rough, sure. But given the choice, I’d choose WabiSabi Thanksgiving over just about anything else.
Nara Bopp-Williams is the program director at WabiSabi, Moab’s community nonprofit thrift store. WabiSabi’s Thanksgiving meal is on Nov. 22. For information about volunteering or donating, call 435-259-2553 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I know with a special kind of confidence that everyone will come through, as they have year after year.”