As always, the folks at Azure Cafe will prepare the turkey “and all the fixins'” for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Freeport Community Center.

Typically, 200 or more people come in for the free dinner, served from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sarah Lundin, community services coordinator for host Freeport Community Services, said that anyone who can make it to the community center – no matter where they come from – is welcome.

“If your aunt comes from Connecticut, she can come here,” Lundin said. “People do come from all over.”

And for those who can’t and would like a hot Thanksgiving meal, still more volunteers will deliver the meal.

At the dinner, music is played, and there is a real holiday feel, Lundin said.

“It’s going to be very festive – very warm with a family atmosphere,” she said. “A lot of families volunteer instead of having a Thanksgiving meal at their homes.

Jonas Werner, Azure Cafe owner with his wife Kate, said that Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday, “with all the others tied for second place.”

The food, as always, Werner said, will be prepared by the team at Azure.
“This year the effort will be led by Azure’s Chef de Cuisine Jeromi Frias,” he said. “Perfectly cooked turkey and glazed ham will be flanked by holiday favorites, including the infamous and delicious Southern corn pudding, an old family recipe.”
Werner said that Azure Cafe is humbled by the many volunteers, “without whose help, this could not be pulled off.”
Kate Werner said this is Azure Cafe’s 13th year of the “amazing shared community dinner event.” She, too, expressed gratitude for the volunteer families and community members who come back year after year to make it possible.
“We welcome any and all in the local community who would like to share a meal with others,” she said. “There will also be families making home deliveries in the local area again this year for anyone unable to join us in person.  Jonas’ grandmother always said that no one should eat alone on Thanksgiving, and we do this dinner each year in her honor.”

Dede Bennell, who knows a thing or two about community service, pitches in at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner ever year with her family. Husband David and son Jesse will be there again. Another son, Ryder, is a college student in California, and can’t make it.

Bennell, service learning coordinator at Freeport High School, praised the Werners for making the event possible – not only through the food, but in securing volunteers.

“We’re grateful every year to get that email from Kate and Jonas, asking us if we want to volunteer,” Bennell said. “It’s just a really beautiful coming together for the community. Kate and Jonas are warm and giving people. This would not happen without their giving spirit.”

Volunteers at the dinner work in shifts, and sign up for specific tasks. Shift times are 10 a.m.-12:15 p.m. to get everything ready, and 12:15-2:30 to maintain and keep the buffet tables stocked, and then do cleanup. They greet guests, bus tables, wash dishes, drop off dessert donations, deliver the meals to homes and even provide music.

The Bennells prefer to have their Thanksgiving meal at home, but they love atmosphere at the community center.

“It’s been a family affair for us for a number of years now,” Bennell said. “It’s one of our favorite things to do. It takes many, many hands. My husband helps put together the meals to go. He and my sons have made deliveries. I serve on the buffet line.”

Bennell mentioned that the family of Carol Southall, a “founding mother” of Freeport Community Services, always volunteers, as well. The Southalls will be bussing tables, staffing the buffet and beverage tables and bringing in a Thanksgiving necessity – the pumpkin pies.

“It’s something we look forward to every year,” Bennell said.

A CLOSER LOOK:

Again this year, Azure Café and a host of volunteers invite everyone to a free Thanksgiving Day meal, from 11.-2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 24. Freeport Community Services requests an RSVP for those wishing to attend the dinner or to have dinners delivered to their homes. To do so, contact Sarah Lundin at [email protected] or call 865-3985, ext. 205. The dinner served at the community center is open to all, but the home deliveries are only for people who live in Freeport or Pownal.

Azure Cafe owners Jonas and Kate Werner are again leading the effort this year for the Freeport Community Services Thanksgiving Dinner. They are shown here with daughter Ella after they received the 2011 Carol Kaplan Award for Community Service.