Community dinner more than just a meal

Darlene Hart sat at the end of a rectangular table, finishing off a plate of green beans, turkey and stuffing surrounded by family. Two tables away, Richard Currier sat down and joined in conversation with three diners halfway through their meal.

Similar scenes were repeated all afternoon as families, couples and individuals stopped at the Whitehall United Methodist Church for last Thursday’s free community Thanksgiving meal.

Hart, who was joined by her own children, cousins and a friend, attended the meal for the first time.

“For the last few years we usually come and get takeout, but they’ve been asking us to come and we thought we’d come down and eat right here this year,” she said.

Sponsored by the Companions in Christ fellowship committee, the meal is an opportunity for local residents, some of whom may not have anyone to eat with, to enjoy a little company on Thanksgiving.

“Our main focus is to give people who may be alone, a place to eat,” said Maxine Willis, who chairs the dinner.

The meal, which has been held for nearly a decade, traditionally serves a upwards of 200 people, a few dozen portions of which are delivered to people who can’t attend the meal.

The spread, which consists of a full complement of traditional Thanksgiving fare and is provided using charitable donations from people and businesses in the community, requires a small army of volunteers to prepare and serve.

Last week, volunteers cooked four turkeys, 100 pounds of potatoes, 66 pounds of squash, a bushel of apples of apple crisp and 14 homemade pies.

Much of the meal was prepared on Wednesday afternoon. Francis Willis, Maxine’s son, and owner of the Gourmet Café in Glens Falls, supervised the kitchen and arrived at the church four hours before the first diners sat down to eat.

“We’ve been doing this for years. It’s our Thanksgiving,” he said. We really enjoy it.”

His sons, Josh and Ethan, help hand out plates and have delivered meals in the past.

“It really gives them a good perspective,” their father said.

Betty Coultee, a part-time driver for the Skenesborough Emergency Squad, drove all the way from the Cooperstown area to help dish out plate after plate of stuffing and mashed potatoes.

Her family was scattered all over New York for Thanksgiving so she made the two-plus hour trip to Whitehall.

“I thought I’d come and help out,” Coultee said. “It feels good.”

Joe LaRock, a member of the Skenesborough EMS, helped deliver meals to those who were unable to attend the meal.

“It’s nice to get out and see the people in non-emergencies,” he said.

Others volunteered a few hours around family meals some even skipped their family meals altogether just to make sure others had a chance to enjoy Thanksgiving.
When the day was over, more than 160 people had been served. But as many diners would attest, they walked away with more than full stomachs. They also walked with full hearts.

“Its things like this, it makes you feel good,” said Currier.

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