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Thanksgiving returns to the Community House

By Staff | Nov 15, 2017

Join the community Sunday, Nov. 19 for the annual Sanibel Community Thanksgiving at the Community House. MEGHAN McCOY

Three years ago the “Indians arrived on the island without their chief” for the annual Sanibel Community Thanksgiving celebration. Well, Chief Storm has finally arrived, making this year’s celebration extra special as the community gathers at the Community House again.

The Annual Sanibel Community Celebration will begin at 6:45 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, at the Sanibel Community House, 2173 Periwinkle Way.

In 1991 Marj Nordstrom gathered Christian churches together on Thanksgiving Eve for a community celebration. Although everyone was busy with traveling plans and preparing their Thanksgiving feast, the celebration was still well attended.

Nordstrom said she decided to change the celebration to the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving, which brought out more people.

“I wanted to include the whole island,” she said, which included her posting flyers throughout the island, including the resorts to let guests know of the celebration too.

In addition, Nordstrom invited BIG ARTS Community Chorus, the mayor, city manager and representatives from every church on the island to be apart of the celebration.

She said she enjoys the Sanibel Community Thanksgiving celebration because the island comes together.

“Everyone is thankful for something in their life, especially on Sanibel,” Nordstrom said.

She had involved Mary Bondurant as her assistant because she’s very creative and she knew she would be retiring from hosting the annual event.

“If it wasn’t for Marj Nordstrom, this event would not be here today. She stopped at every church, resort, Bailey’s and Jerry’s handing out flyers. . . if she didn’t keep the momentum going we would not be here today,” Bondurant said.

She said someone had left an “Indian costume” at her door, so she decided to put it on and attend the annual celebration a few years ago.

“Everyone was in awe that I came in costume,” Bondurant said. “We landed on our kayaks a few years ago. Now we are all here to celebrate.”

She said last year they wanted to make sure the children were involved in the annual celebration, so when the new principal started at the Sanibel School they offered an invitation to the Seahorse Chorale to perform during the event.

Music Educator Joseph Giangreco chose one of his students as the soloist to sing “Count Your Blessings, Name Them One by One,” which he will do again this year.

Bondurant said since it was such a great success, the Sanibel School put the celebration on their calendar as an annual event.

Still to this day, the BIG ARTS Community Chorus performs throughout the celebration. This year Ellen Whitten, the new chorus director, will be making her debut this weekend.

Each group will sing three or four songs and then end the celebration singing together. The audience will also have the opportunity to join in and sing along.

The Rev. John Danner, Bondurant gathers all of the clergy on the island and writes a program for the Sanibel Community Thanksgiving.

“It’s not a religious service, it’s a story telling event,” she said. “It’s a Thanksgiving show.”

The celebration will also include Mayor Kevin Ruane reading a Thanksgiving proclamation, and City Manager Judie Zimomra reading a Thank You Prayer.

The celebration “brings the whole community together,” Bondurant said, which is a great thing, especially with all that has happened this year. “More of a reason for Sanibel and Captiva to show solidarity of being thankful living on the island.”

The celebration, Bondurant said supports F.I.S.H.

After the program, the community will have the opportunity to enjoy cider donated by Bailey’s and more than 300 cookies from Jerry’s.