BLACKWATER — The yellow paper is on the clipboard, and the clipboard is by the register at the Blackwater Trading Post. As Thanksgiving approaches, names will populate the page and, perhaps other pages.
Some names will be real. Others may be Janes and Johns Doe. That’s fine.
What matters is the part where people say how many meals they need so at the Trading Post and just across the street in a family kitchen enough can be made for all.
It’s been going on for several years since Mark and Millette Keske started the tradition of providing free meals to those who might need them, in part, because the Chicago transplants had few Thanksgiving traditions here.
“He started it,” Millette Keske said, speaking of her husband. “He always does this to me. He gets me to cook for people.”
“He knows I love it,” she said.
Mark Keske said they cooked for a family friend, and the idea grew from there. “It started with an index card on the bulletin board,” he said, noting that people who needed a meal simply signed up. Millette Keske cooked it. Mark Keske and their sons delivered it to the Trading Post. People picked it up.
They got to experience the “Millette cooking.”
“I don’t cook by recipe,” she said.
The tradition kept going when the Winfree family took over the Trading Post a few years back. With demand getting bigger, the Trading Post started smoking the turkey while the Keske family handled the sides.
Across the street from the Keske’s, Brittany Hamilton, co-owner and manager at the Trading Post said the Winfrees — Steve and Kim and their son Chance, to whom Hamilton is engaged — embraced it when they took over here.
They served dozens and dozens of plates this past year, which folks pick up between 4 and 7 p.m. at the Trading Post the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
It’s giving back, she said, and that’s what Thanksgiving is about.
“We did about five or six last year,” Hamilton said, speaking of the turkeys. “They were huge birds, too. Very heavy.”
This year there will be birds and sides, such as cranberries, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole.
As big as it gets, the Keskes said all they need is for people to know that this meal is out there, should they need it, and they will make the food in return.
They hope churches might get the word out, too, and let them know if there’s someone who needs a meal.
Just sign up, they said, so they know how much food to make.