OGDEN -- One pallet or more stacked high with sacks of potatoes. More than 50 turkeys and 25 hams. Crates of canned cranberry sauce, and a field's worth of cleaned and chopped vegetables, with dressings on the side.
That, plus at least 20 volunteers to prepare it all, is the recipe for Thanksgiving dinner if you're feeding, oh, 500 or more. The prep work started Tuesday in Weber State's Shepherd Union kitchens, and it continues Wednesday for Thursday's Community Gift of Love Thanksgiving Dinner.
"When it started, years ago, it was for the homeless," said Betty Sawyer, Weber State's GEAR UP director and the driving force behind Ogden's Project Success, a youth and community program.
"Then we added low-income people, then homebound. We deliver meals," Sawyer said. "And now we've added anybody that wants a meal and doesn't have one. There are a lot of international students at Weber State, and they are more than welcome to enjoy a home-cooked meal with friends. And students from out of state are welcome."
This year, Project Success partnered with the Genesis Project and Dream Center to host one large meal rather than several smaller ones, and they arranged for space at the Ogden Summit Hotel (formerly the Ogden Marriott), 247 24th St. Meals will be served 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday. The deadline to request meal delivery for the homebound has passed, but all are welcome at the hotel.
Sawyer said the project originated with Thomas Jackson, local chef and past Weber State chef. About 15 years ago he was going to discontinue the tradition when Project Success offered to take over hosting duties. Jackson has still volunteered nearly every year since, Sawyer said.
Other entities donating to the project include Weber State, Sodexo food service, the Salvation Army and the LDS Church. Community groups and individuals have also donated food or cash.
This year's additional partnerships mean more help, but also more mouths to feed. Sawyer predicts 500 to 700 guests, but is cooking for more.
"This one has been a little different, with the changes," she said, laughing. "We're still figuring out how this is really going to work, logistically. We're working it out ahead."
About 250 volunteers will work on Thursday, with a host at each table to serve seated guests.
Laura Harvey and daughter Danyell Davis, both of South Ogden, have volunteered annually for more than a decade.
"I like volunteer work," Harvey said. "I like prepping, serving, doing it all. It's a good feeling, knowing you are fixing this for somebody that don't have.
"I like helping people. That's my goal, to reach out to people. I grew up doing that. I got it from my mom."
And she passed it to her daughter.
"I love being around people, and I enjoy helping," said Davis, 40. "Helping is the main activity I love to do. The people here are really fun to work with and be around. Helping gives me a good feeling, and I know the people who come and eat appreciate what me and my mom have done for them."
Tuesday's prep included corn, green beans and other vegetables, and a start on potatoes, to be mashed. Deserts were donated, and will include a variety of pies and cakes. Sawyer's plan for today was to help volunteers finish the potatoes, make gravy and roast the turkeys and hams.
The potatoes got a double scrub.
"They came out of the earth and went straight into the bags," Sawyer said. "We're giving them an extra careful wash."
Young volunteers in hair nets or knit caps stood around the industrial kitchen table, peeling spuds.
"It helps our volunteers as well," Sawyer said. "That's a big piece of what we do. We provide an opportunity for young people to give back and support something like this. It's very important. It provides an opportunity for them to help in a small way, and to feel good about it."
Sawyer said between Tuesday and late Thursday afternoon will be a marathon for her and the volunteers, but it will all be worth it, she said.
And after it's all over?
"I'll go home and do Thanksgiving for my family," Sawyer said, with a laugh. Family members will help, she said.
"We used to have our Thanksgiving late, the next Sunday, but it never felt right," she said. So after she and her family volunteer, they head home, "to do it all over again."
Contact reporter Nancy Van Valkenburg at 801-625-4275 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @S_ENancyVanV.