Volunteers support annual community dinner

Volunteers from the Montana Air National Guard carve turkeys on Christmas Eve to be served at the 24th annual Danny Berg Memorial Christmas Dinner. This year 50 turkeys were cooked at the 120th Airlift Wing's Dining Facility for the community meal hosted at the Great Falls Senior Citizens Center. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

Volunteers from the Montana Air National Guard carve turkeys on Christmas Eve to be served at the 24th annual Danny Berg Memorial Christmas Dinner. This year 50 turkeys were cooked at the 120th Airlift Wing's Dining Facility for the community meal hosted at the Great Falls Senior Citizens Center. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

120th Airlift Wing Senior Master Sgt. James Kerner carries a cooked turkey from the 120th AW Dining Facility oven on Christmas Eve. This was one of 50 turkeys volunteers from the Montana Air National Guard cooked to be served at the Great Falls Senior Citizens Center for the 24th annual Danny Berg Christmas Dinner. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

120th Airlift Wing Senior Master Sgt. James Kerner carries a cooked turkey from the 120th AW Dining Facility oven on Christmas Eve. This was one of 50 turkeys volunteers from the Montana Air National Guard cooked to be served at the Great Falls Senior Citizens Center for the 24th annual Danny Berg Christmas Dinner. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

120th Airlift Wing Tech. Sgt. Becky Evans mixes dressing in the 120th AW Dining Facility on Christmas Eve. The dressing will be served with 50 turkeys and gravy prepared in the facility during the 24th annual Danny Berg Christmas Dinner at the Great Falls Senior Citizens Center. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

120th Airlift Wing Tech. Sgt. Becky Evans mixes dressing in the 120th AW Dining Facility on Christmas Eve. The dressing will be served with 50 turkeys and gravy prepared in the facility during the 24th annual Danny Berg Christmas Dinner at the Great Falls Senior Citizens Center. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

Montana Air National Guard Airmen and family members stir gravy in the 120th Airlift Wing's Dining Facility on Christmas Eve. The gravy was served with 50 turkeys and dressing prepared in the facility during the 24th annual Danny Berg Christmas Dinner at the Great Falls Senior Citizens Center. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

Montana Air National Guard Airmen and family members stir gravy in the 120th Airlift Wing's Dining Facility on Christmas Eve. The gravy was served with 50 turkeys and dressing prepared in the facility during the 24th annual Danny Berg Christmas Dinner at the Great Falls Senior Citizens Center. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

120th Airlift Wing Staff Sgt. Bryanna Suazo checks on turkeys being cooked in the 120th Airlift Wing's Dining Facility on Christmas Eve. This year 50 turkeys, dressing and gravy were prepared by volunteer members of the Montana Air National Guard to be served at the Great Falls Senior Citizens Center for the 24th annual Danny Berg Christmas Dinner. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

120th Airlift Wing Staff Sgt. Bryanna Suazo checks on turkeys being cooked in the 120th Airlift Wing's Dining Facility on Christmas Eve. This year 50 turkeys, dressing and gravy were prepared by volunteer members of the Montana Air National Guard to be served at the Great Falls Senior Citizens Center for the 24th annual Danny Berg Christmas Dinner. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Montana Air National Guard Airmen turned out in force to prepare the 24th annual Danny Berg Memorial Christmas Dinner December 24 at the 120th Airlift Wing.

The annual dinner is named for a former member of the 120th AW who established the event for residents of the local community who may not have family members or friends to spend the holiday with. Retired Master Sgt. Danny Berg passed away after battling cancer in 2008.

"They used to cook the dinner at a downtown hotel," said 120th Force Support Squadron Management and Program Assistant Master Sgt. Troy Anderson. "It got to a point where the hotel couldn't handle the volume, so Danny contacted our wing and got it approved for us to be able to volunteer to cook the dinner."

Anderson has volunteered to help prepare four of the annual dinners and considers it a great opportunity to provide this service to the community.

"We do our part to help out our fellow citizens," Anderson said. "I also like to help out the Airmen who come up here who need to know where things are and get the food preparation taken care of."

The volunteers began arriving at the 120th Airlift Wing's Dining Facility at 4 a.m. to warm ovens and begin the preparation of the food for cooking. In tag-team fashion cooks arrived later in the morning followed by turkey carvers and finally the volunteers who offered to wash pots and pans and clean the kitchen.

120th AW Command Chief Master Sgt. Steven Lynch volunteered to carve turkeys this year. He enjoys the camaraderie generated by the workers who gather together in the kitchen.

"We're standing there with about four or five other folks that are all doing the same thing," Lynch said. "We're having a great conversation and we kind of make a good game of it."

Anderson said this year the volunteers cooked 50 turkeys and prepared 10 buckets of gravy and several large pans of stuffing for the dinner.

He said he's impressed that the legacy of a retired guardsman who cared greatly for his community continues on in this popular annual event.

"I think it's incredible," said Anderson. "It's really nice to see that once somebody either steps down or passes away or moves on that a good idea and a good program like this keeps going. People have that need to help other people and to keep something like this continuing."

Lynch said the event is one of the highlights of his year and considers the volunteers he works with in the kitchen a "family within a family."

"It's something he (Berg) can look down and be proud of the way that it's grown in the numbers of folks that we feed," Lynch said. "I think we all understand the value and the legacy and we love to contribute to that legacy and want to keep building on it."

This was the first opportunity for 120th FSS member Staff Sgt. Bryanna Suazo to volunteer her culinary services to help with the event. She appreciated what Danny Berg's original idea to feed single and homeless persons Christmas dinner had accomplished during the past 24 years.

"I think it's a really good idea," Suazo said. "It's a very good cause for the community and I'm glad he created the event for us."

Once the dinner was cooked and complete it was carefully packaged and delivered from the 120th AW Dining Facility to the Great Falls Senior Citizens Center to be served Christmas day.
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