St. Mary’s dishes up Thanksgiving feast

14 years ago

By Elna Seabrooks
Staff Writer

    HOULTON — All the traditional aromas of Thanksgiving filled St. Anthony’s Hall last Thursday when an estimated 150 community people enjoyed a sumptuous dinner prepared and served by volunteers. In the background the clanking of dishes, pots and pans and the muted hum of cheerful chatter mixed with music.
ImageHoulton Pioneer Times Photo/Elna Seabrooks
YUM — Cathy Colter and Linwood Jameson reach the end of the serving line with “a little of everything.” Later, Colter said she didn’t want to cook and “everything tasted good.” For dessert she had pumpkin pie and Jameson opted for the apple crisp. An estimated 150 community people enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner prepared and served by volunteers at St. Mary’s.
    Margaret Casey, the chief organizer and cook said she and her contingent of fellow volunteers cooked 11 turkeys, two whole hams plus tray upon tray of the customary vegetables from squash, yams and peas to a green bean casserole with the expected rolls, dressing and cranberry sauce on the side.
    Casey said community people have been attending the free dinner at St. Mary’s Church on Thanksgiving day for at least 12 years, possibly more. “They really appreciate the meal because it’s home cooked from scratch.”
    Pat Brown, register of deeds at the county courthouse in Houlton said: “This is super, really great. This is the first time I’ve been here.”
    Brown was not alone in her praise for the many cooks and the quality of food. Deb Sennett was at a table with several family members and agreed: “Oh, it’s wonderful. The food is great.”
    The Millet family was there to enjoy the feast and to help. Heather Millet brought her son Michael, 10, and her daughter Hannah, 8, to volunteer. “My husband passed away last year and we didn’t want to spend Thanksgiving alone. So, we thought we’d help other people. We filled up all the beverage cups and passed them out to people getting their meals. My son is clearing plates and taking them to the kitchen when people finish their meal.”
    The doors opened at noon and before 1 p.m., some estimates were as high as 100 guests. Most visitors had dinner at one of the decorated tables, others could be seen along Main St. carrying a meal or dessert home in a Styrofoam carryout plate.
    And, what a meal it was. Cruz Cruz said she, Casey and Janet Barker “were here all day yesterday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. And, we got up again at 7 a.m. today, until who knows when today.” They were cooking and preparing the meal meticulously prepared and served by several volunteers from hot chafing dishes across a long table. Casey said “God bless Francis Fitzpatrick. He donated 100 pounds of Naturally Potatoes. It saved us a lot of work.”
ImageHoulton Pioneer Times Photo/Elna Seabrooks
FAMILY AFFAIR —  County Commissioner Paul Adams enjoyed dinner with his mother, Jean, and friends. At right is Pat Brown, register of deeds for the county, who table hopped to say ‘hello.”

    Most of the desserts looked homemade and delicious. Molly Bailey oversaw multiple tables. “I have cookies, pecan pies, cream puffs, pumpkin pies, pumpkin squares and apple crisps. There is so much, they don’t know what to take. They ask if they can take something home, and I say ‘sure.’”
    In the kitchen, Shirley Reardon said he was “doing really well dealing with lots of pots and pans” thanks to help from Brian Griffin and the Millets. He welcomed others who stopped into the kitchen “to put on a pair of rubber gloves” and join the cleanup detail. Judy Reid said she helped cook and do dishes.
    Cleanup and work aside, the dinner offered many residents an opportunity to share a special time with their friends and neighbors or meet someone new. Casey put last year’s crowd at 108 people and said it has grown over the years, made up of a cross-section of people. “Some live alone or don’t want to cook a big meal. Some are senior citizens and there are others who can’t afford to go out to a restaurant or cook a big Thanksgiving dinner.”
    The whole idea of throwing the doors open to the community grew out of one Thanksgiving when Casey and a couple of friends wanted to use St. Anthony’s Hall to accommodate their large families. “The next year, I felt compelled to do it for the community.” And, thus, a welcome tradition began.
ImageEARLY LESSON IN VOLUNTEERISM — Heather Millet brought her daughter Hannah, 8, and her son Michael, 10, to help pour and distribute beverages. They all pitched in to help Shirley Reardon in the kitchen.