David Pendleton carves a turkey at Most Holy Trinity Church in Saco in this 2018 Journal Tribune file photo. The Saco Council, Knights of Columbus is getting geared up for the annual community Thanksgiving dinner, Nov. 28, and expects to serve about 800 meals. Liz Gotthelf Photo

SACO — Forty to 50 turkeys, 250 pounds of potatoes, 400 pounds of assorted other vegetables and 800 people, ready to dine. Don’t forget the stuffing, the gravy, the pies, and other desserts.

If it sounds like a meal to remember, that’s pretty accurate. Coming up Thanksgiving Day is the 21st Annual Free Thanksgiving Dinner, held at Most Holy Trinity Church Hall at 271 Main St. in Saco. It is an event, as publicity Chairman Denis Litalien put it, “sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and a caring community, with special thanks to the Good Shepherd Parish.”

Preparing and serving the dinner is a labor of love on what could be considered America’s most treasured holiday. More than 150 volunteers pitch in to make sure the meal goes off without a hitch and that no one walks away hungry.

As well as dining in, meals are available for take-out, and  those who choose that option merely request a container rather than a plate, said Litalien. Those who would like a meal delivered must order in advance. Menus and order forms are available at the Good Shepherd Parish office at 271 Main St. or by calling 282-3321. The deadline for getting an order in is 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25. Litalien said those meals will be delivered between noon and 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

In all, said Mike Bolduc, the fellow that heads up the meal preparation effort, about 800 people, split fairly evenly between those who dine-in or enjoy take-out or delivery, partake of a traditional, ‘all the fixin’s,’ Thanksgiving meal.  Any food left over is donated to soup kitchens and food pantries, he said.

Preparation for the community meal, served to people from Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach and Arundel, starts about six weeks in advance, said Bolduc.

Hannaford, Shaws and Market Basket all contribute to the meal, as do parishioners and others, Bolduc said.

On the day before Thanksgiving, volunteers arrive about 3 p.m. to start preparations, like peeling all those vegetables.

On Thanksgiving Day, work starts at 6 a.m.

At 11 a.m., after the priests give the blessing, the meal is served, buffet style. Besides a traditional turkey dinner, guests are also offered a splash of non-alcoholic champagne.

Bolduc has been heading up the event for the past six years but he said his involvement is merely guiding the volunteers.

“It is a pleasure to do this,” he said. Bolduc and his family spend the day at the event.

Among the volunteers will be Litalien and his wife Debbie. She’ll be organizing the volunteers on the floor, while Litalien said he’ll be part of the clean-up crew.

The event is fun and attendees enjoy themselves, Litalien said.

“It has been a great success,” said Bolduc of the free Thanksgiving Day meal, served for more than two decades. “It is a real community affair.”

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