Grateful for my Hammer Thanksgiving tradition

By Kate Bottiger, Director of Volunteer Resources

Grateful is a word on which I often reflect. As the Director of Volunteer Resources at Hammer, I am able to show appreciation to our volunteers who share their time and talents with the individuals we support. And, to my fellow employees, I am truly grateful for the hard work you do each and every day. Our donors provide us the resources to add quality to our services, which we could not do without your gifts. Finally, I am grateful to our family members for allowing us to become a part of your family. Truly, I have much to be grateful for now that I have been involved with the Hammer family for more than 20 years.


Thanksgiving is a time to take stock of our blessings and remember that for which we are grateful.Therefore, I wanted to share a Hammer tradition that started years ago. In 2003, Jan Hopper (Program Manager) and I wanted to serve a Thanksgiving meal to those who did not have family with whom to celebrate their holidays. Around noon on each Thanksgiving, our Hammer event includes a complete holiday meal: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, vegetables, salad, along with a variety of desserts. In the past couple of years, our numbers have grown steadily – we now serve more than 85 individuals. To complete the occasion, a holiday movie is also featured. (Last year we watched Elf!)The smiles, laughter and mood of celebration with family and friends, is truly what makes this annual event so extraordinary.

Danielle and Eddie Bottiger 11-25-13Hammer’s Thanksgiving has grown on me personally as well. In fact, it has become a part of our family tradition. Together with my husband Dan, we have introduced the tradition to our children, Danielle and Eddie, who have grown up spending the Thanksgiving holiday at Hammer with our extended family, the people we serve. My parents, Ed and Barb Bies, have also joined us in serving the meal over the years. And, a few times, my sister’s family, from northern Wisconsin, has made the trip down to join in the fun as well. Last year, my niece and nephew were bummed that they could not make the trip, exclaiming “But Hammer’s Thanksgiving is the best!” I guess guilt trips work – they will be joining us again to serve the meal this year!

Thanksgiving volunteersHammer’s Thanksgiving has become a tradition for others as well. Family members (and active volunteers), Jo Ann Koltes and Carol Gottschalk, have been cooking the huge meal for years. (Jan Hopper used to cook all the turkeys herself, bless her heart! For her sake, we let her off the hook from getting up in the wee hours of the morning each year!) Our team of volunteers extraordinaire now includes: Jo Ann, Carol, Barb, and Ed, who have taken on the team duty of cooking the turkeys for our festive meal. They claim they don’t want me on bird duty since I have never cooked a turkey in my life. In my defense, I am a vegetarian!

We also give thanks to the Starr-Knox family who participate in the annual Thanksgiving festivities. Adam, Bob, Darin, Garret, and Maggie (Direct Support Professional at Hammer) set up tables, decorate and serve the meal each year with much love.

I am so grateful that, together with Jan, we have been part of a very special tradition of thanks. It is my hope that we will be able to continue serving a traditional holiday meal to our “Hammer family” for years to come. I would not have guessed that Hammer’s Thanksgiving would become such an important holiday tradition for my family. But it seems so natural now. When our children see ‘Thanksgiving’ written on our calendar, they now excitedly ask, “Do we get to go to Hammer for Thanksgiving again this year?” For that, I am truly grateful and truly blessed.

Thanks to all of you who serve and support Hammer.

From my family to yours – Hammer Thanksgiving!


  1. Terriann Matejcek

    That is true gratitude in action! Thanks, Kate!

  2. Suzanne

    Hammer is grateful to have you, Kate! You make shopping and cooking for 100 seem like a day’s work – nothing more. Well written article!

  3. Kathy

    What a wonderful tradition, thanks for sharing Next year you may have to turn away volunteers . Hammer is such a great organization to be part of, I’m thankful everyday for the blessings I receive!

  4. Celeste LaMosse

    The article really touched me. I’ve only worked for Hammer a few months but am so happy to be around so many who REALLY care. Thanks for doing the holidays right for those without family, its part of having a rich and fulfilling life. I’m very proud to be a part of Hammer!


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