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Legion to provide Thanksgiving for vets

The post will serve 150 to 200 Bay Pines veterans.

By LIBBY NELSON, Times Staff Writer
Published November 21, 2007


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SEMINOLE 

Thanksgiving is a big day for Seminole's American Legion Post 252.

Big as in an entire flock of roasted and deep-fried turkeys. Mountains of dressing and sweet potato casseroles. Scores of pumpkin pies.

Every year for Thanksgiving dinner, the post plays host to veterans from the Bay Pines VA Medical Center who cannot eat with their families, post commander Mike Abbis said.

Cooking begins today, more than 24 hours before the first veterans arrive on buses at noon Thursday. The American Legion will prepare between 25 and 30 turkeys for an expected crowd of 150 to 200 from the Veterans Affairs hospital.

For pumpkin pie, dressing, mashed potatoes and other trimmings, the group relies on donations, Abbis said.

"We give them a full sit-down meal and dessert and all that kind of stuff," he said.

The Legion has been serving the veterans for five to seven years, he said.

The dinner is the organization's biggest event of the year and involves 20 to 30 volunteers helping with preparations and serving.

Most of the veterans served in Iraq, with some from Afghanistan and a few from earlier conflicts, Abbis said.

This year the dinner adds a guest of honor: Warren Post, state commander of Florida's American Legion.

As the veterans begin arriving on Thanksgiving, some will be on gurneys and eat while on stretchers, with volunteers assigned individually to take care of their needs.

The meal is served buffet-style. Sometimes a few American Legion members play the harmonica, Abbis said.

"We don't do any entertaining per se, just food," he said.

The meal lasts from noon to 4 or 5 p.m., when the last group of veterans usually boards the buses back to Bay Pines.

Then the American Legion volunteers tackle the equally massive mounds of dishes.

Libby Nelson can be reached at 727 893-8779 or lnelson@sptimes.com.

[Last modified November 20, 2007, 20:54:09]


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