A bright spot in an otherwise turbulent and challenging few months is that Scarborough’s annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner is still happening this year.

“It was never an option to cancel,” said Kelly Murphy, one of the founders of the event. “It was only a question of how we were going to do it so that our community could safely celebrate together this Thanksgiving.”   

Many families are choosing to stay home instead of traveling for the holidays or are taking care to keep their gatherings very small, leaving some on their own for Thanksgiving, even with family nearby. In accordance with state and CDC recommendations for public health, this year’s Thanksgiving Scarborough can’t be its usual indoor, restaurant-style dinner. “We’re making all of the meals to-go,” said Chef Peter Esposito, nutrition program director at the school department. The team is ready to serve 1,000 meals so that neighbors can still enjoy a delicious traditional meal with a generous helping of ‘togetherness’ on the holiday.   

Dinners include roast turkey with all the fixings made from scratch, plus apple or pumpkin pie for dessert. Meals will be fresh, not frozen, and are ready to heat-and-serve. Neighbors who have pre-ordered a dinner will come to Wentworth School for curbside pickup overseen by officers and volunteers from the Scarborough Police Department, while a team of volunteers led by Kelly Murphy, will be ready and waiting with the dinners.  

Thanksgiving Scarborough arose from a collaborative discussion among community members at a “Food for Thought & Action” forum hosted by Project GRACE five years ago. The idea for a community dinner had been circulating for a long time, but with School Nutrition, Community Services, School Board members, Project GRACE and community volunteers gathered round the same table, a wishful idea quickly matured into a plan. “The excitement and energy sparked by this conversation is still inspiring,” said Steffi Cox, executive director of Project GRACE.  

Scarborough School Nutrition, Project GRACE, and Community Services continue to collaboratively host the event. It’s volunteers like former School board members Jackie Perry, Kelly Murphy, and Jodi Shea, and all the donors like the Mitchell, Jamieson, Forest, Woodin, Caterina, and Grondin families, Prouts Neck Association, Moose Lodge, Kiwanis Club, and Higgins Beach Association, and so many others, that make this dinner so successful each year.   

It’s the participation by so many all over town that makes it a special event, a favorite town tradition. What began as a gathering of around 200 in its first year, has since grown to more than 400 in 2019, and on track to serve 1,000 dinners this year! Chef Peter Esposito and his crew cooked up 65 turkeys and over 100 pounds each of potatoes, squash, stuffing, and cranberry sauce last year. “We may not be able to have everyone sit down together on Thanksgiving, but thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, partners, and volunteers, we are making sure that our community is fed and Thanksgiving celebrations go on.”  

Learn more at www.thanksgivingscarborough.org

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