SACO — Joddie Fournier of Biddeford, her two daughters and a family friend braved cold temperatures and whipsaw winds to deliver four turkey dinners to homebound residents on Thanksgiving Day.
“I call this ‘organized chaos,’ but it’s for a good cause,” said Fournier, laughing.
The Fourniers, riding in a blue minivan, were part of an army of volunteers who drove to neighborhoods in Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach to bring Thanksgiving Day meals to people who could not make it to Good Shepherd Parish’s Most Holy Trinity Church. The church in Saco hosts a popular free turkey dinner, but hundreds also have the meal delivered.
By midafternoon, about 350 meals were gobbled in-house, and another 240 delivered. The deliveries have become increasingly popular since they started 15 years ago, church volunteers say.
“It has blossomed into something that is almost unimaginable,” said Mary Roets, a longtime volunteer.
At times, the Fourniers’ teeth chattered as they tried to find the correct apartment to deliver to, or while waiting a few minutes outside when doorbells didn’t work.
But all who received meals said they were grateful for the tasty dinner.
“Thank you. I appreciate it very much,” Carol Roberts said from her Biddeford apartment, after being handed a meal by Fournier’s daughters, Abbigail, 11, and Allyson, 13. “I would have been eating a TV dinner instead, and it wouldn’t have been turkey.”
Earl Littlefield, standing in the hallway of the second-floor apartment that he shares with his girlfriend in Biddeford, said the delivered meals make him realize good people still exist in the world.
“It’s so fabulous,” Littlefield said. “We’re disabled, and we wouldn’t have been able to do the meal ourselves.”
Church organizers said it takes weeks to prepare for the Thanksgiving deliveries, and people can specialize their order, checking off what sides they want to go with their dinner. Children craft homemade Thanksgiving cards to go with the meal.
However, drivers are under strict orders to only give out one roll with butter per customer, or else the rolls could run out.
Volunteer Phyllis Goulet said she drops off order forms at various places, including retirement homes, gas stations and, for the first time, schools.
Goulet said the schools were a wise addition, because many families are homeless and living out of cheap motels.
“A lot of people are living in the motels, and even if they could afford a turkey, how are they going to cook it in a motel?” Goulet said.
Roets said that from the outset of the Thanksgiving program 15 years ago, church leaders recognized the need to also deliver meals.
“There’s a lot of elderly people, and a lot of people who can’t get to the church,” said Roets, whose late husband, Bill, helped start the Thanksgiving program, along with the late Thomas Morrison and Michael Goulet.
She said that as the program has become increasingly popular, more want to help.
“Each year, we get more volunteers,” Roets said. “We have to turn some volunteers away.”
But that’s not to say there aren’t bumps along the way, and perhaps some impatient customers.
“Sir, your meal is going to get there, buddy. We’re just starting the deliveries,” said volunteer Sue Sajecki, mere minutes after drivers started delivering food.
Sajecki said some people want two or three desserts, and the church would run out if they honored those requests.
During peak times, it can become hectic.
“Now is when all holy hell breaks loose,” Sajecki said, smiling, during a particularly busy moment. “But it’s worth it.”
Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at: