Hundreds of local residents will come together Thursday at Mount Shasta City Park's Upper Lodge to enjoy a free Thanksgiving dinner, complete with all the fixings, from 1 to 5 p.m. The event, which has been a tradition for more than 20 years, is funded entirely by local donations and made possible by community volunteers.

Sustenance. Contact with others. These are the two most basic human needs, said Dawn Fazende, organizer of Mount Shasta’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner and founder of the local Meals on Wheels Auxiliary.

Fazende’s goal is to ensure that everyone in the community has access to food and friendship.

Hundreds of local residents will come together Thursday at Mount Shasta City Park’s Upper Lodge to enjoy a free Thanksgiving dinner, complete with all the fixings, from 1 to 5 p.m. The event, which has been a tradition for more than 20 years, is funded entirely by local donations and made possible by community volunteers.

Fazende, who became involved with the Community Thanksgiving Dinner in 1995, is relentless in her quest to raise funds for programs that provide nutrition for the elderly, the disabled and the disadvantaged. She believes that awareness of local hunger is the first step.

“People think the government takes care of this kind of thing, but they don’t,” said Fazende. “Food is such a basic, obvious need. I can’t understand why, in the richest country in the world, there are hungry people. I commit myself to raising awareness and doing what I can here in my community.”

A Mount Shasta resident since the winter of 1993, Fazende founded the Mt. Shasta Meals on Wheels Auxiliary in 2010. She’s also the organizer of Wesak, and annual spiritual festival that takes place in Mount Shasta.

She first became involved with the Wesak Festival working with its founder, Dr. Joshua David Stone. When Stone passed away in 2005, she assumed the role of organizer and began donating the festival’s proceeds to the south county homebound meal delivery group.

In July of 2019, Great Northern Services assumed administration of the Senior Nutrition Program, which feeds seniors a healthy meal for lunch several days a week at a nominal cost. For those who are able to get out and about, seniors dine together at meal sites in Mount Shasta and Dunsmuir. Some are able to receive transportation services to the meal. For seniors who can’t get out each day, Meals on Wheels South Siskiyou delivers food directly to their homes.

Fazende said she realized the importance of the Meals on Wheels program when her own mother was ill. Meals on Wheels staff delivered nutritious meals for her mother and provided social interaction for her father, as well as referrals for services for both her parents.

When Fazende’s mother passed, the Meals on Wheels driver, who had recently lost his own wife, stood by her father, helping him through his grief and encouraging him to participate in the senior meals program and other senior programs in his area.

“People who are homebound know they will have a visitor during the week,” Fazende said of the Meals on Wheels program. “Some of them look forward to seeing the Meals on Wheels driver almost as much as the meal. And people who are home alone but not homebound have a place to socialize and not be alone through the Siskiyou Senior Nutrition program. Besides a meal the nutrition program provides entertainment through various activities. The activities they participate in really uplift their spirits, and let them know they are not alone in the world.”

Fazende noted that you don’t have to be a senior, age 60 or above, to enjoy a lunch at the Senior Nutrition cafes in Mount Shasta and Dunsmuir. The general public is welcome to enjoy a fresh, nutritious, home-style meal for $10 while seniors support meal costs by donating $3 if they choose to.

Meals are served at noon at the Mount Shasta City Park’s upper lodge, Monday through Thursday, and in Dunsmuir on Wednesdays at noon at the Dunsmuir Community Center.

How to help

There are several ways you can help Fazende in her quest to feed the Mt. Shasta area community.

You can make a donation to Great Northern Services’ Senior Nutrition Program during the North State Giving Tuesday event on Dec. 3. Visit www.northstategives.org/GNS to donate – something that can also be scheduled in advance.

Those interested in donating directly to the Mount Shasta Thanksgiving meal can send payment to “Thanksgiving Meal,” PO Box 443, Mount Shasta, CA 96067. Updates, contact, and volunteer information are available at Facebook.com/MtShastaThanksgiving.

For more information about the meal, contact Fazende at (530) 926-1762.