Southwest Indian Relief Council
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A Program of PWNA

Success Stories

 Cooking for a Crowd with a Smile


To pull off a holiday meal is a staggering feat for any household.

We stress and stay up late worrying about the ten people who would arrive early the next afternoon. We struggle with planning and cooking the meal, cleaning the house, and getting ready to receive everyone presentably.

Most of us are familiar with the stress of cooking a full Thanksgiving meal. There are even websites dedicated to helping you reduce your stress. Helpful hints cleverly titled “How to cook for a crowd without losing your mind” give advice on a stress-free holiday. But, how do you apply those standards when hundreds of people are coming to your table?

That’s exactly what the dedicated food-service staff of our Program Partners accomplishes every year when they participate in the Thanksgiving service through the Southwest Indian Relief Council (SWIRC) Program. Through our generous donors, we can help provide holiday food to Program Partners hosting a community-wide Thanksgiving celebration.

So, how did our amazing Program Partners accomplish this massive undertaking, yet keep a smile on their face all day long?

Cooking the meal

The number of cooks and volunteers can’t really be calculated, but be sure that it was a small army. This year, there were 13 Program Partners on 5 Southwest Indian reservations that did that and more for over 3,000 community members! The smallest meal supported by the service was in Fort Defiance at the Senior Center for 75 people. The largest meal was at Borrego Pass School for 450 people!

It is really amazing that they are able to pull off such a steaming, delicious, and nutritious Thanksgiving meal every year! There usually isn’t room to store items in refrigerators that can typically be prepared the night before, so most of the cooking is done on site the day of the event. Electric roasters are a huge advantage, but many Program Partners don’t have multiple roasters. The cooks typically bring their roasters from home to help free up the stove top for vegetables, stuffing and pies.

Gravy is made in large stock-pots to make sure that all plates get a ladle-full to slather over the freshly-made potatoes and stuffing mix. Dry turkey really isn’t an issue at these events, because these cooks are so masterful at their holiday skills. They just chuckle at the thought of dry turkey! Holidays may have more items to cook, but in most cases, these centers and cooks are used to preparing for crowds. Their smiles reflect their joy in providing good food to their communities.

We salute these individuals who not only prepared the meals for their community, but then went home and did it all over again for their families. We also extend heart-felt appreciation to each generous donor who helped make this holiday service possible.


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