Old Orchard Beach resident Glody Seke, center, an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, receives his first-ever Thanksgiving meal during the Good Shepherd Parish and Knights of Columbus 23rd annual Free Thanksgiving dinner in the hall of Most Holy Trinity Church in Saco. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

SACO — Barbara Hajosch recently moved to Maine and doesn’t have any family nearby to celebrate Thanksgiving with. So when she saw a news clip about a dinner at the Most Holy Trinity Church on television, she thought it would be a perfect way to spend the holiday.

“I came because I wanted to be around people for Thanksgiving and I thought I could help folks out,” said Hajosch, 65.

On Thursday, she was one of about 150 volunteers working at the 23rd Free Thanksgiving Dinner sponsored by the Good Shepherd Parish and Knights of Columbus. “I think it’s amazing that all these people are here,” said Hajosch as she presided over a table of freshly cut apple, blueberry and pumpkin pie slices.

Organizers of the community dinner expected to serve 800 meals including takeout, delivery and meals served in-person at the church hall. “It’s a great community affair,” said Mike Bolduc, chair of the free dinner committee. “It’s wonderful.”

Don Bisson, center, an organizer for the Thanksgiving dinner, gives volunteers a pep talk before the start on Thursday morning. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Bolduc said the group carved 55 turkeys and prepared 600 pounds of vegetables. Over 200 pies were served.

The best part, he said, is seeing the community come together to prepare and enjoy the dinner.

Advertisement

“The people that come to eat – there are ones who can’t afford it and ones who can who come just for the camaraderie,” Bolduc said. “It’s beautiful.”

As hungry patrons flowed through the door just before the start of the meal at 11 a.m., Nancy Beaulieu was there to greet them, wearing a sparkly pink mask, to ask if they want takeout. Beaulieu, 77, had never been to the dinner before but came this year after her husband died a month ago.

“I thought it would be good to be around people, and I want to help someone else,” Beaulieu said.

Retired Monsignor Rene Mathieu delivers a prayer before the start of the Good Shepherd Parish and Knights of Columbus 23rd annual Free Thanksgiving dinner at the Most Holy Trinity Church in Saco. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Among those sitting down for the meal was Kevin Kerrick of Biddeford. Kerrick enjoyed the meal last year, so he decided to come back. With the price of food so high, the Thanksgiving meal is a treat, he said.

“You go to the store and a 2-litre bottle of Coca-Cola is three dollars, so I don’t have it all that often,” said Kerrick, 43. “At Thanksgiving, I’ll have a Coke.”

“I like the variety of food and the people who serve the food are great,” he added.

Advertisement

At another table, Glody Seke was waiting to see if he could get takeout for his wife and daughter. The family are asylum seekers from Congo and have been in Maine about a month.

“It’s my first Thanksgiving,” said Seke, 30. “I don’t know what it looks like, so I just wanted to have the experience. We don’t know how to make it.”

Brad Goulet scoops sweet potatoes into a serving pan before the start of the Thanksgiving dinner in Saco. Goulet, who has been a cook at the event for 21 years, said the day of volunteering is “better than Thanksgiving at home.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

He said he thought the dinner would be a good opportunity to learn about a new tradition. “I was curious, that’s why I came here,” he said.

For Leo Paquette, the dinner was one stop in a busy day. He planned to bring a meal to his mother, who lives nearby but is 96 years old and can’t leave her house. Then he hoped to also stop by his daughter’s house in Waterboro. “The food is delicious. They do a really good job,” Paquette said.

Preparations for the meal usually start in early October. The whole community puts in a lot of work to pull it off, but each year Bolduc said he comes across people who make it worth it. One year it was a down-on-his-luck father with his children, all of whom had been living in a nearby motel.

This year, Bolduc said, he got a call two days ago from a hotel that was housing 60 immigrants, asking if they could provide meals for all of them. Bolduc wasn’t sure if the group could pull off such a large request last-minute, but they did.

“Every year you look back and the six or seven weeks of preparation, the ordering, all that stuff is so unimportant when you see this happen,” Bolduc said.

Volunteer Dot Fournier, center, serves a container of cranberry sauce to a volunteer who was assembling a meal for transportation. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: