An hour before the Westbrook Food Pantry began giving out turkey dinners on Tuesday, people were already lined up outside the door at St. Hyacinth’s Church on Brown Street. Under one of the first cloudless, sunny skies in a week or more, most of them were wearing smiles on their faces.

Westbrook residents who need help rely on the food pantry. At Thanksgiving, that reliance even turns a little festive with a full turkey dinner in the offing.

“It’s great,” said Margaret O’Connor while waiting in the sun on Tuesday. “It’s a big help, being on a fixed income. Your food stamps only go so far. This benefits a lot of people.”

In fact, Jeanne Rielly, who runs the food pantry, said this year more than 180 households will benefit from the Thanksgiving dinners.

“It’s good for a senior citizen with grandkids who come over,” Gertrude Hubbard said Tuesday. Hubbard, who lives alone, said the food pantry and its efforts at Thanksgiving are important to her because she’s on a fixed income. With the turkey dinner she gets from the food pantry, she will have food for herself and also her grandchildren.

Along with a 10-12-pound frozen turkey, O’Connor and Hubbard and the others who signed up for the turkey dinner received a box full of potatoes, stuffing mix, cranberry sauce, dessert pie or pastry, peas, corn, onions and bread.

The food pantry provides the dinner through funding from the city as well as donations of money and food from local businesses and residents. Rielly said Hannaford supermarket, where she bought the turkeys, is one of the biggest supporters.

“Hannaford is a fantastic supporter because they give us a truckload of food every Tuesday,” said Rielly. “We wouldn’t even function if they didn’t.”

Donations of money, food and time also came from Westbrook residents and local businesses. Joan Hodgdon, a member of St. Anthony’s Parish, said she received about $1,000 in donations from parishioners at St. Hyacinth’s. At about $20 for each gift of a turkey and box of food, according to Hodgdon, her parish alone provided about 50 dinners.

Others provided time, including a number of Westbrook children who helped put the boxes together on Saturday, according to Rielly.

Iva DeRosa, who was helping Tuesday, said she regularly donates her time to the food pantry and always receives smiles from those she’s helping. “Every Tuesday they’re very happy,” said DeRosa.

Up until about three years ago, the food pantry also put on a dinner for Christmas as well as Thanksgiving. Rielly said the clientele has grown in the last few years to the point where it doesn’t have the budget to do a Christmas dinner.

Rielly said that people could donate turkeys or hams during the holidays, and the food pantry would be more than willing to accept them. If residents or businesses brought them to the food pantry at 22 Walker St. any Tuesday morning during December, she and the other volunteers would distribute them during the regular Tuesday hours.

All the fixin’s for a Thanksgiving dinner, packed and ready to be picked up.Jeanne Rielly with turkey dinners for more than 180 Westbrook households.Joan Hogdon unpacks a box of turkeys, donated by Hannaford supermarket. The birds are the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving dinners distributed Tuesday by the Westbrook Food Pantry.


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