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Community feeding community: Volunteers and organizations come together for Thanksgiving

If someone were searching for Mike and Lindy Obremski in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, they’d likely find them at 124 S. San Francisco St. preparing to provide Thanksgiving dinner for about 500 people.

The couple has been volunteering at Flagstaff’s Sunshine Rescue Mission since 2015 — the year they moved to town — cooking, providing counsel to people who come through the mission doors, and helping to complete all the tasks that a seamless Thanksgiving Day requires. 

“Every year we’ve come to serve for Thanksgiving because that’s where our heart is,” Mike Obremski said.

Both he and Lindy work as ministers and offer spiritual counseling in addition to a listening ear, something they’ve done outside of the holidays as well -- although Mike is quick to stress that people are served based on need and not belief.

This year Sunshine Rescue Mission will host Flagstaff Shelter Services in addition to the larger community and people at the mission. To facilitate this, Mercedes Benz donated several vans that will be used to transport people from Flagstaff Shelter Services to the mission for the holiday meal.

“We open up the doors to feed anybody and this year we’re expecting anywhere from 300-500 people (a 200-person increase from 2017),”  said Shaun Rost, director of Sunshine Rescue Mission and Dorsey Manor.

Dorsey Manor serves as a men's transitional housing community helping to reintegrate people into the workforce and into their own housing. Volunteers from Dorsey, as well as Hope Cottage, and the larger community are among those preparing for the holiday. That preparation includes cooking — which volunteers began doing as early as Monday morning — 70 turkeys, 30 hams, 300 pounds of mashed potatoes as well as other sides, preparing the gift section where people can pick presents for their loved ones, and handing out Thanksgiving boxes.

The mission is outfitted with a commercial kitchen and will be deep-frying some of its turkeys and baking others. About 120 of the mission’s turkeys were donated through Sechrist Elementary School's annual 5th grade turkey drive.

"And for our Thanksgiving box donations we handed out over 200 birds and those boxes include an entire meal, with potatoes, yams and more,” Rost said.

Similarly, Flagstaff Family Food Center — who receives supplies for Thanksgiving throughout the year from donors, as does the Flagstaff branch of St. Mary’s Foodbank — will also be hosting a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal at their Second Street location.

The Food Center expects about 150-175 people for the dinner — similar to the numbers of the past year, according to Monica Foos, executive director of the organization. There will be a total of about 15 volunteers for the morning shift and 15 for the afternoon shift, Foos said.

In the weeks before Thanksgiving, the food center gave out approximately 700 food boxes with turkeys and fixings. They also received over 200 additional calls from individuals and families in need and were prepared to give away more birds. The turkeys and sides have come from a variety of  individuals as well as organizations, such as Safeway, which donated almost 300 birds through the Stuff the Bus Thanksgiving food drive.

“People have been bringing frozen turkeys in, but also some people just gave money… anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. Another gentleman pulled up with 125 turkeys today, something he does every year,” Foos said.

The American Legion also provides a free hot meal at no cost, from 2-5 p.m. at their 204 W. Birch Ave. location. 

As for the Obremskis? They'll be among the more than 50 volunteers at Sunshine Rescue Mission on Thanksgiving, and plan to be back next year. 


Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

Taylor Schneider, a volunteer with the Flagstaff Family Food Bank, loads up cars with turkeys and other food items Saturday morning.


National
AP
Mars revisited: NASA spacecraft days away from risky landing

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Mars is about to get its first U.S. visitor in years: a three-legged, one-armed geologist to dig deep and listen for quakes.

NASA's InSight makes its grand entrance through the rose-tinted Martian skies on Monday, after a six-month, 300 million-mile journey. It will be the first American spacecraft to land since the Curiosity rover in 2012 and the first dedicated to exploring underground.

NASA is going with a tried-and-true method to get this mechanical miner to the surface of the red planet. Engine firings will slow its final descent and the spacecraft will plop down on its rigid legs, mimicking the landings of earlier successful missions.

That's where old school ends on this $1 billion U.S.-European effort .

Once flight controllers in California determine the coast is clear at the landing site — fairly flat and rock free — InSight's 6-foot arm will remove the two main science experiments from the lander's deck and place them directly on the Martian surface.

No spacecraft has attempted anything like that before.

The firsts don't stop there. One experiment will attempt to penetrate 16 feet into Mars, using a self-hammering nail with heat sensors to gauge the planet's internal temperature. That would shatter the out-of-this-world depth record of 8 feet drilled by the Apollo moonwalkers almost a half-century ago for lunar heat measurements.

The astronauts also left behind instruments to measure moonquakes. InSight carries the first seismometers to monitor for marsquakes — if they exist. Yet another experiment will calculate Mars' wobble, providing clues about the planet's core.

It won't be looking for signs of life, past or present. No life detectors are on board.

The spacecraft is like a self-sufficient robot, said lead scientist Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"It's got its own brain. It's got an arm that can manipulate things around. It can listen with its seismometer. It can feel things with the pressure sensors and the temperature sensors. It pulls its own power out of the sun," he said.

By scoping out the insides of Mars, scientists could learn how our neighbor — and other rocky worlds, including the Earth and moon — formed and transformed over billions of years. Mars is much less geologically active than Earth, and so its interior is closer to being in its original state — a tantalizing time capsule.

InSight stands to "revolutionize the way we think about the inside of the planet," said NASA's science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen.

But first, the 800-pound vehicle needs to get safely to the Martian surface. This time, there won't be a ball bouncing down with the spacecraft tucked inside, like there were for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers in 2004. And there won't be a sky crane to lower the lander like there was for the six-wheeled Curiosity during its dramatic "seven minutes of terror."

"That was crazy," acknowledged InSight's project manager, Tom Hoffman. But he noted, "Any time you're trying to land on Mars, it's crazy, frankly. I don't think there's a sane way to do it."

No matter how it's done, getting to Mars and landing there is hard — and unforgiving.

Earth's success rate at Mars is a mere 40 percent. That includes planetary flybys dating back to the early 1960s, as well as orbiters and landers.

While it's had its share of flops, the U.S. has by far the best track record. No one else has managed to land and operate a spacecraft on Mars. Two years ago, a European lander came in so fast, its descent system askew, that it carved out a crater on impact.

This time, NASA is borrowing a page from the 1976 twin Vikings and the 2008 Phoenix, which also were stationary and three-legged.

"But you never know what Mars is going to do," Hoffman said. "Just because we've done it before doesn't mean we're not nervous and excited about doing it again."

The tensest time for flight controllers in Pasadena, California: the six minutes from the time the spacecraft hits Mars' atmosphere and touchdown. They'll have jars of peanuts on hand — a good-luck tradition dating back to 1964's successful Ranger 7 moon mission.

InSight will enter Mars' atmosphere at a supersonic 12,300 mph, relying on its white nylon parachute and a series of engine firings to slow down enough for a soft upright landing on Mars' Elysium Planitia, a sizable equatorial plain.

InSight — short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — will rest close to the ground, its top deck barely a yard above the surface. Once its twin circular solar panels open, the lander will occupy the space of a large car.

If NASA gets lucky, a pair of briefcase-size satellites trailing InSight since their joint May liftoff could provide near-live updates during the lander's descent. There's an eight-minute lag in communications between Earth and Mars.

The first pictures of the landing site should start flowing shortly after touchdown. It will be at least 10 weeks before the science instruments are deployed. Add another several weeks for the heat probe to bury into Mars.


News
Thanksgiving food safety essentials

This holiday season, the Coconino County Public Health Services District (CCPHSD) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourage consumers to avoid foodborne illnesses – and a trip to the hospital – by taking appropriate precautions in handling, preparing and cooking foods.

Since Jan. 1, CCPHSD has registered 131 cases of enteric diseases in Coconino County. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) defines enteric – meaning “intestinal” – diseases as “infections characterized by diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting.” Contaminated food is a primary cause of these diseases.

CCPHSD further reported that “The most common reportable diseases among Coconino County residents from 2013-17 were campylobacteriosis (37 percent), salmonellosis (28 percent), and cryptosporidiosis (11 percent),” with summer months having the highest number of reported enteric disease cases.

According to ADHS, campylobacteriosis is most often caused by handling or eating raw or undercooked poultry, while salmonellosis – caused by the bacteria “Salmonella” – is often caused by eating contaminated eggs, fruits, vegetables or milk. Cryptosporidiosis can be spread if someone who is ill does not wash their hands well after using the restroom and then handles food for someone else.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food. To reduce the risk of contracting an enteric disease, the CDC has outlined four basic steps of food safety: clean, separate, cook and chill.

  • Clean: Wash hands, counter tops, sponges, utensils and all other surfaces – including cutting boards – before and after food preparation.
  • Separate: Keep foods separated to avoid cross-contamination. Wash hands and all surfaces after contact with raw meats, poultry and eggs, especially.
  • Cook: In order to kill harmful bacteria, foods must be heated to the proper internal temperature and maintain that temperature for at least 15 seconds. Beef, ham and fish must be cooked to at least 145 degrees, ground meat to at least 160 degrees, poultry to at least 165 degrees and eggs until both the yolk and white are firm. All leftovers and casseroles must be cooked to at least 165 degrees.
  • Chill: Improper refrigeration can cause harmful bacteria to grow and multiply. Divide leftovers into smaller, uncovered portions so they will cool more quickly before chilling. Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees and freezers at zero degrees. Use a thermometer to check the accuracy and adjust accordingly. Food that has been in the refrigerator for more than a week should be discarded. The CDC saying is “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Thanksgiving turkeys can be a major source of poultry-associated foodborne disease outbreaks. If handled properly, though, friends and family have no need to fear this holiday meal celebrity.

Proper thawing is essential to turkey preparation. Do not leave frozen turkeys on the counter; bacteria grow quickly in this “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees. Thaw turkeys in the refrigerator in a container or in a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes. For microwave thawing, follow the microwave oven manufacturer’s instructions.

Both the turkey and its stuffing must be cooked thoroughly to avoid contamination. Place the turkey in a roasting pan at least 2 inches deep and fill with stuffing just before cooking. Bake at a minimum of 325 degrees. Cooking time will vary by weight.

According to CCPHSD, “A 18- to 22-pound turkey (without stuffing) takes 3½ to 4 hours to cook. With stuffing, allow 3¾ to 4½ hours to cook.”

Verify with a meat thermometer that the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh and wing joints are at least 165 degrees. Leave the stuffing in the turkey for 20 minutes after it is removed from the oven to allow additional cooking.

Although Coconino County’s year-to-date reported enteric disease cases are currently below year-end numbers in 2016, reported cases as of Nov. 16 already exceed the county’s five-year average for the month. The CCPHSD hopes to reduce the number of future cases by encouraging all consumers to not only be aware of food safety practices, but to make them a priority this holiday season.

For more information about food safety, visit www.cdc.gov/foodsafety.