Monday morning, we arrived at the USO at 9:30 am and I began helping setup for the “No Dough” dinner. Pam stayed in the office working for Cheryl Vandiver on the “Angel Tree” project for next month. I repaired a serving table for Joyce Schellhorn (Director) and then put out the sneeze guards for the salad and dessert tables, containers for the drink table and all the utensils and napkin dispensers. We had a good group of volunteers helping with food preparation and the kitchen was hopping. At noon Pam and I went to lunch and Joyce asked us to purchase a gift card for her daughter at Ikea, so while there we had lunch and might not do that again. Back at the USO Pam continued her work and I kept busy with odd jobs for the dinner and also sorting and shelving food donations. At 4:30 pm volunteers began arriving for the dinner and Cheryl gave them their assignments and we had a full house, so Pam and I were not needed. Joyce and Dave Ostrum went to a local Winn-Dixie store to participate in a food giveaway the store was hosting for the USO, which included a turkey. We were happy to see Tony and Nikki Head at the USO dinner and Nikki was feeling much better. Her mother had the boys, Caleb and Matthew out on the back patio and we visited with them.
Tuesday morning, we arrived at the USO at 9:30 am and Joyce Schellhorn (Director), Cheryl Vandiver and Dave Ostrum were in the office and we weren’t sure why we were needed but it soon became apparent. The three of them left and drove to Winn-Dixie and picked up turkeys, bags of potatoes and food bags leftover from the food giveaway the previous evening. They had over 40 families that were signed up but didn’t come. We placed most of the turkeys on the pool table, bags potatoes on the free tables and bags of food and excess turkeys in the storage room and freezers. It was a big job, but we finally got them taken care of. There was so much food in the storage room. We hoped their plans for Christmas giving will take the bulk of it. The restroom contractors were also working so they were in and out throughout the day but seemed to get a lot done today. Joyce and Dave made calls to the 40 odd families that hadn’t come trying to get them to come today and while we were there about 6 came and we gave them a turkey, bag of potatoes, bag of groceries and some pie. Pam and I left about 2:30 pm and drove back to Arlington Hills and stopped at Crispers for a late lunch and then continued to our apartment and unloaded a mix-master that Pam borrowed from the Lagae’s and some food she bought at the Commissary. For the rest of the afternoon Pam made bread dough for Thursday and I made some phone calls and rested. I was trying to find out what our 3 single members were doing for Thanksgiving. Andrew Cooper was flying home to San Diego, Tyler Gneck was going backpacking in the Smoky Mountains in Southern North Carolina and we hadn’t heard from Alexis. Samantha Lagae talked with Tara Alexander about an invitation to dinner Thursday, but Wes returned home from sea yesterday and they were planning a small family dinner on Thursday. We were glad that Sam made the invitation, however, as they were still smarting from the episode when Tara came home from Texas.
Wednesday morning, we had a lazy day. Pam got up late and came into the kitchen and “punched” down the dinner roll dough and began cooking carrots. Unfortunately the carrots were old and when cooked were very “mushy” so Pam threw them out. By noon we were dressed for the day and had lunch and then on to BJ’s and did some shopping. We bought a few items, especially more carrots and then put gas in the van and drove to the Neptune Beach. We stopped at Stephanie Jarvis’ home and picked up some chairs for the dinner and visited with her for a little while. She is not feeling well and is almost continuously plagued with morning sickness. We continued to the Naval Station and dropped off the chairs at the Lagae’s. Samantha was home with her kids and getting excited/anxious for dinner Thursday. We returned to our apartment for the rest of the day. I did a little calling and learned that Alexis was going to be spending Thanksgiving with Charles (her friend from work) and other friends from the clinic so all the singles were taken care of. We did carrots again tonight and they cooked up just fine and tomorrow morning Pam will finish the dishes and bake the dinner rolls.
Thursday morning—Happy Thanksgiving Day! We were looking forward to this day to spend some time with our military families but were very aware of our own family back home. The four Denver families gathered at Travis and Jennifer’s home and we are happy for that. Erin and Weston were joining some of Weston’s family in St. George for the Holiday. After Pam got up, she began cooking. First the carrots. We cut them up and layered them with shredded cheese and topped with sauce. Next came the dinner rolls and she rolled out the dough and I placed them on pans to raise. Finally, we put them in the oven and they were all done by noon. We loaded up the van and headed to the Naval Station. Pam got out at the base security office and came on base with Wendy Delgado and her son Elijah and I drove to the Lagae’s and unloaded the food, chairs and a small table. I went off base again and picked up the Elder Crandall and Beal and brought them on base. Everyone else was assembled. We had the Lagae family (Jerald, Samantha, Eleanor, Fiona and Clive), Perry Family (Christian, Marisol and Anthony, plus Marisol’s mother), Jarvis family (Lance and Stephanie), Delgado family (Wendy and son Elijah), Elders Crandall and Beal, two sailors from Jerald’s ship (didn’t get their names) and Pam and I for a total of 19. Samantha had arranged several tables in a line from the kitchen into the living room and food was on another table in the living room. After a lovely prayer by Samantha everyone surrounded the food table, filled up a plate and found seats either at the tables or on the couch and we enjoyed the meal and visiting for over an hour. The food was wonderful, and Pam and I enjoyed getting to know everyone better. Sam and Jerald provided the Turkey and several side dishes and everyone else brought something, so we had plenty. The children were well behaved, and Clive zeroed in on Pam and that pleased her. After dinner we visited for another hour and then the Jarvis’ took plates of food to the gate guards, and I asked the Elders about their plans and they needed to leave so we took them back to their apartment. We returned to our apartment and spent a quiet afternoon and evening. The Alexander’s had dinner on Wes’ Ship the USS Detroit, The Blacks had dinner with friends and the Heads had dinner by themselves to celebrate Caleb’s 5th birthday and Thanksgiving. Shay Tuttle was with her parents and they had Thanksgiving together. Later that evening we heard from Travis and he sent pictures of their dinner in Denver and it looked spectacular. We didn’t hear from Erin and Weston but hoped they had a grand time also.
Friday morning, we slept in some and had a good night’s rest. It was Black Friday, but we had no concrete plans for the day. Cheryl Vandiver from the USO called and asked if we wanted a Christmas tree and we said yes, so 15 minutes later she arrived with a small lighted tree and we invited her in to see our apartment. Later in the morning we drove to the Alexander’s, but no one was home, so we drove to Neptune Beach and visited with Lance and Stephanie Jarvis and got some bedding for when Andrew and Sarah and their family arrive. We also went on base and stopped at the Head’s and Legae’s but both families were gone for the morning. We had some lunch and did some shopping at BJ’s and filled the van with gas and then returned to our apartment. In the evening we returned to the Alexanders and had a nice visit with the family. It was good to see Wes again and he was happy to be home and he looked good.
Saturday morning, we did laundry and cleaned the apartment. We also moved the furniture around and prepared for Andrew and Sarah’s family to arrive next Wednesday. By noon we were dressed for the day and left the apartment and had some lunch and did some shopping at Costco and was surprised at how few people were out at the St. John’s Center. We returned home and unloaded the van and then went to our local Wal-Mart and finished shopping before returning home. Made a few phone calls and sent out some texts checking on tomorrow.
Sunday morning, we arrived at the Jacksonville Beach Ward at 9:45 am and visited with ward members and the missionaries. Shay Tuttle was there with her parents and it was nice to meet them. They would remain until the baby comes. Tyler Gneck was also with us and he had a nice backpacking trip into the Smoky Mountains over the holiday. The Noblits were also there but none of the other families or Alexis Connelly. We later learned that the Lagae’s and Heads were both in Orlando and Rich Black was home for the weekend and they stayed home. Pam and I sat on the stand and Bishop Currie conducted the meeting and following the sacrament he read a letter from the Stake President outlining upcoming Stake Conference and made some comments about that. Pam then spoke and gave a wonderful talk on the Gathering of Israel. Following a Christmas Hymn I concluded the meeting with my talk also on the Gathering of Israel and the meeting ended. We attended the Gospel Principles class and had a nice group. Tyler, Gary and I attended the Elder’s quorum and Pam went to Relief Society. Following the meeting we visited for a while and then Pam and I returned to our apartment. Pam fixed some dinner and we enjoyed the warm meal and watched BYUTV programming throughout the afternoon.
Alexanders enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner on the USS Detroit