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Volunteers treat North Chicago to early Thanksgiving

North Chicago-11/17/12 Sat./North Chicago High School
SharDeVost Waukegan works turkey gravey during annual Thanksgiving dinner Saturday North Chicago.
| Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times

North Chicago-11/17/12, Sat./North Chicago High School Sharon DeVost, of Waukegan works on turkey gravey during annual Thanksgiving dinner Saturday in North Chicago. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 19, 2013 2:08AM

Thanksgiving comes early in North Chicago, where for the past seven years, a citywide dinner has been held a week in advance of the real turkey day.

You don’t have to be close kin or even a shirt-tail relative to attend the dinner, held Nov. 17 at the North Chicago High School Cafeteria, and that’s organized each year by 3rd Ward Ald. Valerie DeVost and a host of volunteers, including her family and friends. You don’t even need an invitation.

“Everybody is welcome,” said DeVost. “But we especially want to honor our seniors and our veterans.”

This year’s dinner, served by young Navy JROTC volunteers from the high school, featured the usual holiday fixings — turkey, dressing, cornbread, salad, and lots of cake and pie. Entertainment included the memorized recitation of “I Have a Dream,” by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by Dishon McBride, 13.

“That, for me, was the highlight,” said Robert Sundin, pastor of Living Waters Apostolic Pentecostal Church, who said the dinner is important.

“It brings in people, some who might be less fortunate,” Sundin said. “It’s an opportunity for local business and community leaders to see the residents and talk with them. It’s not how well we work, but how well we work together.”

“A lot of people are out of work, struggling to feed their families,”DeVost said. “This dinner is a way to bond as a community.”

DeVost estimated that diners at the event, which ran from 3 to 6 p.m., numbered about 200. Expected attendance fell off, she said, after North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham nixed insurance coverage. DeVost, who plans to challenge Rockingham in the 2013 primary race, said she scrambled to obtain insurance for the event.

Rockingham, who admits that he and family members have attended the citywide dinner in the past, said DeVost had approached the city’s insurance company about coverage and that the city was then informed that a rider to the existing policy would have to be attached — at a cost to the city.

“This wasn’t a city function,” said Rockingham, who said he made an exception for last year’s event, after a late request by DeVost.

“I didn’t want to disappoint people,” Rockingham said.

“A lot of people heard it was canceled,” DeVost said. “They were pretty disappointed.”

Volunteer Euphema Nelson, of North Chicago, who arrived in the U.S. from Jamaica in 1968, made salad and filled plates before sitting down to her own meal.

“It’s a very nice thing for her (DeVost) to do,” Nelson said. “It brings people together.”

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