Project Pilgrim, an annual community Thanksgiving Day meal served in Kennebunk, is coming up in a couple of weeks. Head chef Mario Barros, a board member of the Community Harvest organization that hosts the meal, shown here in the kitchen, talked about Project Pilgrim in a recent ,interview, along with board member Carla Russell. Courtesy photo by Community Harvest

KENNEBUNK – If you ask Mario Barros what he likes about Project Pilgrim he’ll tell you it is all about community.

A program of the nonprofit Community Harvest organization that serves Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel, Project Pilgrim is a complimentary meal served on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28. Volunteers descend on St. Martha Church at 30 Portland Road and under Barros’ direction, prepare enough turkey, ham, and all the tasty veggies to feed dozens and dozens of people – usually about 300 to 350 in all.

“I like the fact it does keep the community together,” said Barros. “It brings the community together across a lot of different walks of life.”

The meal is served at St. Martha from noon to 1:30 p.m. Guests may also call ahead arrange to pick up a meal.  Volunteers offer transportation to and from the event as well as deliver and serve dinner at the homes of community members who are physically unable to attend. To make reservations, request a meal delivery, or learn more about volunteering, residents are asked to call 967-1911.

Barros and Carla Russell are both board members of Community Harvest, along with several others.

Russell said she is the person out front in the hall on Thanksgiving Day, making sure there are enough “to go” meals prepared, among other tasks.

As well as food preparation, there are tables to decorate, flatware to ready, and more.

“I love the people I work with,” at the Project Pilgrim event, said Russell. “Seeing all the community volunteers that come and help is astounding.”

For Barros, the meal begins with getting all the food together and have it ready to be prepared.

‘We’re blessed to get a lot of volunteers,” he said.

Under Barros’ direction, volunteers prepare and roast half a dozen turkeys, 20 to 25 turkey breasts, and an avalanche of vegetables – potatoes, sweet potatoes and more. And there’s ham available for those who prefer it over turkey.

“Once food there and people are cooking, my job is to make sure it is prepared properly in accordance with food safety regulations,” said Barros.

The are at least two parts of the meal that Barros said always prepares himself, the stuffing – and the gravy – about 8 gallons, he estimated.

Pies and rolls are typically donated by local vendors, he said.

Volunteers are always welcome and are needed for clean up as well as food preparation, said Russell, pointing out that tables have to be cleaned, and floors need to be mopped.

Project Pilgrim, noted Russell and Barros, is an event that personifies community.

“At the end of the day, you put down the last ladle and say ‘wow, we just fed 300 plus people,” said Russell.

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