AUBURN — Smiles could be seen in between bites of turkey at the Auburn Salvation Army's annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

Dinner plates were filled with food by smiling volunteers at the event. Timothy Donovan, co-chair of the Salivation Army Advisory Board, said he expected around 200 dinners would be served in the packed basement of the building Thursday afternoon. Hundreds of separate meals were sent out earlier in the day by volunteers to senior citizens and others. Leftover food will go to Chapel House, a homeless shelter in Auburn.

Maj. Carmen Campbell, who has been with the Salvation Army in Auburn for almost six months, said people were in good spirits.

"The community's beautiful and they come together and they support (each other)," Campbell said. "This would not have happened without them."

Chef Richard Taradejna, who has been volunteering at the dinner for seven years, said 50 turkeys, 350 pounds of potatoes and 150 pounds of squash were prepared for the event. Taradejna, a professional chef with 30 years of experience, said he greatly enjoys volunteering for the event over the years. He said preparation for the dinner began Monday. 

Taradejna's son, Andy Wilbur, who has performed various duties for the dinner for five years, said the event has "a sense of family," despite the fact that not everyone is related.

Kathy Jurczak and her mother, Lottie Jurczak, have been meeting at the dinner together for the last couple years. Kathy, who lives in DeWitt, said they never need a big turkey so they come to the event. The two said they try to spend time together fairly often. Lottie enjoys meeting a variety of people at the dinner every year, and said dinner guests and volunteers are often smiling and are kind. She said the volunteers often walk by to ask if she or Kathy need anything.

"They're all so friendly over here," Jurczak said.

Richard Hoag, a volunteer, said he enjoys working the dinner.

"I just like seeing people get together for the Thanksgiving holiday and spend time with their friends and loved ones," Hoag said. "It brings people together."

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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Education Reporter