Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – As they have done for so many years, hungry diners will head to the Arcata Veterans Memorial Building next Thursday for the annual Thanksgiving Dinner. But all they’ll find there are signs directing them to the Community Center. That’s because Arcata’s traditional free Thanksgiving meal has moved.
This year, it will be held at the Arcata Community Center, 321 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway (across from HealthSPORT). It takes place Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28 from noon to 3 p.m.
Change was in the air last year, when the dinner was on shaky ground. The Vets Hall, which had provided the venue at no cost, suddenly charged a fee. A hasty fundraising effort by the now-defunct Arcata Eye newspaper drew $500, which was donated to the event’s longtime organizers, the Humboldt All-Faith Partnership.
At the time, the Rev. Alicia Abell said the cash infusion, along with other donations and volunteers, would be sufficient to keep the event going for two years, feeding the 350 or so people who usually attend.
But the traditional setup was faltering, with volunteers in short supply, so Abell turned to Luke Patterson, proprietor of Luke’s Joint and The Other Place restaurants. Patterson has served his own free Thanksgiving meal in recent years. “We explained the issues and said, ‘Can we work together?’”
After agreeing to take the project on, Patterson, who Abell said had planned to serve the meal in tents in The Other Place’s parking lot, realized that a larger venue would be necessary. The D Street Neighborhood Center was booked, so he secured the Community Center, a location large enough to handle just about any crowd.
“This year, it’s really a community meal,” Abell said. “It’s going to be the best community dinner ever.”
Abell said seniors who normally have lunch at the center’s Senior Dining Room will be honored with a table of their own at the Community Meal.
Following an initial press release, Abell directed further inquiries to Patterson, who said he would follow up with media relations. But the irascible restaurateur admonished Abell and this newspaper not to talk to each other.
“You should leave innocent bystanders out of this,” he said, referring to Abell. “Alicia has nothing to do with Thanksgiving any more, and can only provide insight into the past and how she’s working diligently to keep the aggressive and ignorant churches at bay.”
“The facts have changed,” Patterson said in an e-mail message. But he declined to provide updated information. “There is new stuff indeed. I bet you’d love to get those notices updates [sic], wouldn’t ya?”
Asked to help share the new information in the spirit of Thanksgiving, Patterson replied, “Please don’t lecture me about the goddamn spirit of Thanksgiving.”
A final appeal for updated information was turned aside. “I thought I asked you to stop pestering me,” Patterson said. “I’m trying to organize a free Thanksgiving for 500-plus. Leave me alone.”
Prior to the cessation of communication, Patterson had described the attendance system as follows: If your last name begins with letter A through H, attend from noon to 1 p.m.; I through Q, 1 to 2 p.m.; R through Z, 2 to 3 p.m. Contact [email protected] or leave contact information ervers at Luke’s Joint, 887 H St. on the Plaza, or The Other Place, 660 K St.