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A by-the-numbers look at 5th annual Elgin Community Thanksgiving Dinner

In Neighborhood Deli owner Jeff Turner manager Candice Gillen stoutside downtown East Dundee eatery. They others are getting ready for

In the Neighborhood Deli owner Jeff Turner and manager Candice Gillen stand outside the downtown East Dundee eatery. They and others are getting ready for the fifth annual Elgin Community Thanksgiving Dinner Nov. 28. | Mike Danahey~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 5, 2013 6:07AM

ELGIN — Time is fast approaching for what will be the fifth-annual Elgin Community Thanksgiving Dinner — scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 28 at First United Methodist Church, 216 E. Highland Ave.

This will be the second year that event organizer Jeff Turner has held the dinner at the church. It previously was held in the city-owned Hemmens Cultural Center but was switched over to First United Methodist after the city changed its policy in 2011 and began charging all groups — even nonprofits — to use the Hemmens.

Turner, owner of In the Neighborhood Deli, also will host his fifth Have A Heart Dinner this February.

The events are not set up to feed the hungry, although they can and do serve that purpose. Rather, Turner and ITN Deli manager Candice Gillen said the dinners are open to anyone because they are designed to bring people of all sorts together.

The Courier-News asked Turner for a by-the-numbers look at the dinners. Here’s what he provided:

5,200 pounds of turkey. That’s how much turkey Turner said has been carved up over the years, including the 1,200 pounds to be sliced this month. Turner said leftovers of all sorts go to the Salvation Army, PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) and other local nonprofits. Some guests even go home with foil pans full of food.

28 hotel pans full of fowl each year. Kitchen staff at the Grand Victoria Casino cooks and carves the birds for the dinner, filling more than two dozen pans. Turner said the turkeys are delivered to the Grand Victoria’s kitchen a week prior, then prepared and sent over to First United Methodist a few blocks away downtown, where the pans are racked in the church’s refrigerators.

800 to 1,400 diners annually. Turner said the event has been averaging 1,000 attendees each year, with the highest number coming in 2011.

“It’s weather-dependent,” Turner said. “If it’s nice out, people will walk over with their families.”

1,500 volunteers. Including this year’s group, Turner said there have been 1,500 volunteer shifts for the dinner, with a good many of the same people lending a hand each year.

40 hours. While he spent more time on the dinner its first year or two, “We’ve gotten better at it,” Turner said. Thus, now the cumulative time he spends planning for the event amounts to what used to be called a typical work week.

4 others to thank.

In addition to volunteers, his ITN Deli staffs, the casino and the church, Turner mentioned four other parties whose aid is essential for the dinner’s success: Anthony Pedote, who manages the kitchen where potatoes, vegetables and tossed salad are prepared and donated desserts are plated (the meal also includes bread and butter, while coffee, water and lemonade are offered as beverages); ITN Deli’s Gillen, who oversees the front of the house for the dinner; the Salvation Army, which decorates the hall and which is the deli’s partner in the event; and Food for Friends, a Chicago-area organization based in Palatine that finds donors for the turkeys and this year has secured 1,200 pounds of bird.

$5,000. That is the event’s fundraising goal. Cash donations are accepted, or checks can be made payable to Elgin Community Network.

3 shifts. Volunteers have the option of working from 8 to 10:30 a.m. for setup; 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for the dinner; and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., which includes cleanup.

For more details, visit;; phone 847-888-9486; or email

Organizers are accepting monetary and dessert donations, both of which can dropped off through Nov. 27 at ITN Deli, 185 N. Edison Ave., Elgin, or the ITN Deli Meet Market, 310 N. River St., East Dundee. Desserts also may be dropped off Thanksgiving Day at First United Methodist church between 8 and 11 a.m.

Donations of toiletries and tooth care supplies — particularly smaller or travel packages — also are being collected at both of the above locations. Hurley & Volk Orthodontics, 484 Briargate Drive, South Elgin, also is participating in this aspect of the event.

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