Thanksgiving about caring, giving back

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Jay the giraffe takes carrots from zoo keeper Kathy Yanotti Thursday during feeding time. Yanotti said in her 25 years at the zoo, she has lost track of how many holidays she has spent with her second family at the park.

Sharna Johnson

For some, Thanksgiving Day is about who you care for.

Master Sgt. Roddy Martin said he and his wife chose to spend the morning and early afternoon volunteering at the Lighthouse Mission, then get together with friends in the evening.

With their nearest family in Arizona, Martin said they will spend their holiday giving back to others rather than traveling.

“It’s time to give back,” he said, explaining as a member of Cannon Air Force Base’s Top Three group, numerous other airmen and their families joined them at the mission to serve others for the holiday.

The mission was packed and bustling with activity during its two-hour meal, a mixture of volunteers and diners filling the small kitchen and dining area.

By noon, mission director Richard Gomez said volunteers had prepared and delivered more than 200 meals throughout the community and were serving even more on site.

But humans weren’t the only ones being cared for Thursday.

Kathy Yanotti said in 25 years working at the zoo, her family has expanded to include the more than 200 animals housed at the park, and even the wild birds that fly in for food and refuge.

“I don’t know how many holidays I’ve spent out here,” she said, not complaining as she made her rounds, bundled in thick clothes to guard against the cold.

As she dumped buckets of pellet feed topped with apples and carrots into suspended feeders, the giraffes Jael and Jay each stole a bite.

“It’ll be late, (but) it doesn’t make any difference,” she said of her and her husband Mark’s Thanksgiving meal.

With the two of them splitting the feeding responsibilities at the zoo, she said the chore would take about half the six hours it normally takes.

Animal Control Officer Theresa Brown said it would take her about two hours to clean kennels, sanitize and feed the more than a dozen dogs at the shelter.

“I don’t mind, my husband’s got to work anyway,” she said, talking about her own family of dogs at home as she scooped up two husky-mix puppies and moved them to another cage so she could clean theirs.

“It’s cool, it works out,” she said with a smile, explaining though she would be on call, they planned to gather with friends to celebrate the holiday in the evening.