PORTLAND — Thanksgiving is a family holiday, of course, so it’s not surprising that Holly Ayoob would spend it with her two children.

What’s a little different, however, is that Ayoob, from Biddeford, and her daughter, Asia Steele, 17, and son Trevor Steele, 12, spend the first half of the day getting the Portland Club ready and then serving turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, carrots and desserts at one of the United Way of Greater Portland’s three Community Thanksgiving meals.

In fact, Asia has been on hand since she was 5 — too young to help serve — following her mother around the club’s big dining room. Trevor joined in last year and was back again Thursday.

The trio and Ayoob’s husband, Paul Ayoob, were among the dozens of volunteers helping to prepare and serve about 450 meals at the State Street club. The United Way also held community meals at Woodford’s Congregational Church and Immanuel Baptist Church.

Ayoob said the family doesn’t skip its own turkey to serve meals to others. After the dinners are served and the club is cleaned up, she said, the family is off to her mother’s house in South Portland.

“She holds the turkey for us,” Ayoob said.

Many of those volunteers at the Portland Club are long-termers, including Rodney Mondor, decked out in a tuxedo to mark his 15th year at the community meal.

It may have been his 15th anniversary, but Mondor admitted he did miss a year — to march in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York as a Wompkee — a green, big-eared plush toy that was Maine’s answer to the Beanie Baby craze.

Mondor admitted the parade wasn’t what he had imagined, with heavy rain and wind.

“All the balloons were only up about 12 feet because of the wind,” Mondor said.

Karen Stephenson, who ran the community meal for the United Way, said all 52 turkeys were donated by Hannaford employees who turn over the coupons for the birds they receive from their employer.

Whole Foods donates the desserts and other companies in the area sponsor other parts of the meal.

DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant cooks the birds and makes the gravy and the rest of the meals are prepared at the Portland Club by volunteers.

The meals aren’t aimed only at the needy, she said. They’re open to all, including those who just want a little company on the holiday.

“A couple of people I talked to said, ‘I have a family, but I like this better,’ ” she said, suggesting a few prefer to skip the helping of drama that is sometimes offered up like a side dish at family get-togethers.

Sister T.J. Haines, a retired Assembly of God pastor, appreciated the effort.

Haines said her family is in Pennsylvania, but she moved up here a few years ago, working with a street ministry. She took advantage of the opportunity to have a holiday meal with others and said the Portland Club was a step up from meals that are often served in church basements — friends filled her in beforehand.

“They told me it was kind of classy,” she said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]