A story about the Livermore Community Thanksgiving Dinner incorrectly reported the name of one of the volunteers. Her name is Helene Renaud.
LIVERMORE -- Lurline Moore may have left the small town behind when she moved to Livermore from a tiny hamlet near Eureka, where folks left their doors unlocked and supper was a neighborly affair. But the sense of community she grew up with never left her.
For the past 31 years, she and her husband, Randy, have steered the Livermore Community Thanksgiving Dinner, serving traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie to the area's indigent, housebound and just plain lonely. It's a gargantuan labor of love, requiring hundreds of volunteers (and 1,000 pounds of turkey), but, somehow, it all comes together.
"It's like putting on a dinner for your family," Lurline Moore said. "Just a really big family."
Each year, the Moores and their volunteer army welcome 1,500 people to the Bothwell Arts Center for feasting and camaraderie. The group delivers hundreds more dinners to shut-ins and the elderly, and shuttles veterans -- many of them wheelchair-bound -- from the Livermore Veterans Hospital to join in the festivities. The Moores also have initiated a food drive, delivering groceries to the needy on Thanksgiving Day.
"I get more from it than I give," Lurline Moore said. "It's very fulfilling. ... My ancestors came over on the Mayflower. It's just in my blood."
The idea spawned in 1981, when a few friends with no family in the area -- a minister, a sheriff's deputy and an Alameda County firefighter named Bob Moore (no relation to Randy and Lurline) -- celebrated Thanksgiving together and brainstormed for ideas to feed the area's poor. The dinner among friends grew into an all-inclusive community event; the Moores got involved the following year and soon took over the reins from Bob Moore, enlisting family, soliciting food from local restaurants, handing out fliers, and going door-to-door to summon resources.
They've kept the event open to all comers, free of any particular faith or political view.
"We wanted to see everyone who needed dinner, not just the poor," Lurline Moore said. "It was for everybody with nowhere to go on Thanksgiving."
Longtime volunteer Don Pitt, who mans the kitchen, got his first invitation more than 20 years ago, and he has been back every year since.
"I praise (the Moores) every time they do this," he said. "If it wasn't for them, half these people wouldn't even know what a true Thanksgiving dinner is."
Recreating the feel of a home-cooked meal around the family dinner table, settings are prepared with fine china, real silverware and cloth napkins. Volunteers from the Lawrence Livermore Lab, entire families, college students, Boy and Girl Scouts and 4-H members bus tables, fill drinks, wash pots and pans, and sit down to eat and talk with those who arrive alone. Volunteer or visitor, everyone is treated the same.
"I love it for the companionship that's there," Pitt said. "Nobody makes one person feel out of place. It's a total family; you are welcome, no matter who you are."
Volunteer Helene Renaud has spent the past dozen years collecting food from restaurants and local businesses in advance of the event. On Thanksgiving morning, she and her husband, Jack, deliver pies and desserts to the Veterans Hospital. While each volunteer has an area of expertise, the Moores, she said, oversee the "beehive" that makes it go.
"They're pretty much everything," Renaud said. "It's a lot of work for them. ... They pull everything together."
Preparations begin the day after Thanksgiving for the following year; the Moores begin recruiting the 300 or so volunteers needed for the task in August. No volunteers are turned away, and about half of them come back every year.
"It's really hard work, but it's fun, believe it or not," Lurline Moore said. "It's hard to describe the feeling. It's like being in love with the city."
It takes a village to put the production together. Shari's Restaurant donates the pies; Weinerschnitzel the onions. Costco sends leftovers. The Livermore Area Recreation and Parks Department provides vans and drivers to pick up the disabled.
Cattlemens restaurant bakes sweet potatoes, and the local chapter of the Henchmen Motorcycle Club brings trucks full of rolls and French bread. Volunteers cook the turkeys at home.
Charles "Chef Grizzly" Adams, the event's executive chef, for the past 23 years has given up having Thanksgiving with his own family to be with his "adopted family."
"The Moore family is a godsend," he said. "What they've done for this community is absolutely astonishing. I'm proud to say that I know them."
A Navy veteran used to cooking for large groups, Adams does the prep work at Livermore's Veterans Memorial Hall, peeling potatoes and sweet potatoes, and making salads and stuffing. Close to a ton of food will leave his kitchen by the end of the day.
Randy and Lurline Moore, he said, are the reason for what he does.
"These folks are absolutely the real deal when it comes to service," Adams said. "The heart is the Moore family; we're the blood that circulates around."
The Moores' son, Brandon, 29, runs the Bothwell kitchen and has shown interest in taking over the entire operation. Randy and Lurline Moore, both retired, are considering finding someone to pass the torch to -- but the feeling they get from helping, Lurline Moore said, keeps them coming back.
"I love the friendship -- the fellowship of watching the community come together," she said. "It's what I live for."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.
Claim to fame: For 31 years, Lurline and Randy Moore have headed the Livermore Community Thanksgiving Dinner, open to anyone without family or friends to spend the holiday. Last year, the Moores and more than 250 volunteers served 1,800 people, at the Bothwell Arts Center and through home deliveries.
Quote: "There's nothing stronger that the heart of a volunteer, and that's what we have at our dinner." -- Lurline Moore
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COOKING UP Community
Preparations are already being made for the 31st annual Livermore Community Thanksgiving Dinner, from 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 28 at the Bothwell Arts Center. This year's first public organizing meeting will be Nov. 14. To sign up as a volunteer, call 925-216-0968 or go to www.lctd.org. For details, rides or meals, call 925-455-9782.