The annual Millbourne Laundromat Thanksgiving dinner had its biggest turnout ever this year, just down the street from where the tradition began 25 years ago.
The Leefield Community Hall was packed with people waiting in line for turkey, mashed potatoes and all the fixings.
“I love it … I have nowhere else to go, so might as well come here,” guest Donna Froese said Monday.
Victoria Ewert of the Rotary Club of Edmonton, where the dinner was held, said the laundromat needed more space to welcome guests for the dinner this year. The community hall makes it easier for Edmontonians of all ages to come share a hot meal together because of the area’s ample parking and accessible bus station, Ewert said.
“It’s open to everyone, we don’t discriminate,” she said. “It’s for anybody that wants to celebrate Thanksgiving with other people.”
Ewert said the new venue gave her a good reason to send out invitations to several community organizations, including those working with youth and seniors.
‘It’s hard to believe so many people need a meal’
The tradition started 25 years ago at the back of Shirley Tripp’s Millbourne Laundromat when a few of her out-of-town regular customers told her they had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving.
“I said to them, ‘Well, mom’s going to cook you dinner,’ ” she said.
Tripp served 40 people turkey and ham that first year, but since then the tradition “just escalated,” she said.
Every year since, Tripp had to set up a tent with a heater behind the laundromat to accommodate the growing crowd. But there was never enough room. In her last year co-ordinating the dinner, Tripp said she fed over 1,000 people on the property.
Tripp sold the Millbourne Laundromat 12 years ago, but the new owners have kept the tradition going by pairing with local organizations like the Rotary Club of Edmonton.
“When you do something like this that many years ago, you don’t think that over the years it’s going to keep going,” she said.
“It’s hard to believe that so many people need a meal.”
The Rotary Club’s been working with the current laundromat owners for seven years after fewer private donations were coming in.
Club volunteers were also the ones serving up fresh potatoes, turkey, and vegetables to the crowd. Among the servers this year was Coun. Moe Banga, who said he came to foster community support.
“We all are blessed, so we want to share those blessings among our community and everyone around us,” he said.
Thanksgiving dinner was served between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.