Guilford community Thanksgiving dinner offers food and friendship

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    GUILFORD — Some came because they didn’t want to spend Thanksgiving alone.
    Others came because they wanted to help out.
    Still others came because a turkey dinner is a rarity on their tight budget.

NE-ColorGuilMain-DC-PO-49Observer photo/Mike Lange

    MAIN COURSE — Larry Lewis, left, and Tom Goulette carve the turkeys at the Guilford community Thanksgiving dinner.

    But everyone was welcome at the Guilford community Thanksgiving dinner, hosted by the United Methodist Church for the past 12 years.
    The snowstorm didn’t deter the crowd — estimated at 80 to 100 — very much, although take-out orders were coming in steadily when the doors opened at 11 a.m. “We had five or six right off the bat,” said Tom Goulette, who put his carving knife aside long enough to deliver some meals. “If someone calls, we’ll be there.”
    Kirsty Pratley is one of the volunteers who is credited with the idea of a free Thanksgiving dinner for the Guilford area, but she’s quick to say that a lot of people were involved at the start and still are. “When we first started, we were always worried if we were going to have enough volunteers or enough food,” said Pratley. “But every year, things just seem to work out fine.”
    Goulette said that they usually average five to eight turkeys each year “but nothing goes to waste. Our crew changes also over the years, but we always seem to have enough.”
    He recalled that the late Clifford and Gloria Leighton along with their children and spouses “used to show up almost every year.”

NE-GuilServ-DC-PO-49Observer photo/Mike Lang

    SERVING LINE — Dozens of people enjoyed the Guilford community Thanksgiving dinner at the United Methodist Church, a tradition that started 12 years ago.

    One advantage of the Guilford dinner is that everything arrives pre-cooked, so there’s very little labor and cleanup involved. “Many bring in crock pots, so you get a little personal touch from a lot of cooks,” Pratley said.
    Some of the favorite cold dishes include homemade cranberry sauce by Carmen Lander and dozens of pies and other baked goods. “We usually have so many desserts that we encourage people to take an extra slice of pie or cake home with them,” Pratley said.
    Gayle Worden volunteered for about four or five years, took a year off and came back for last week’s meal. “This is something that really brings the community together,” she said.
    At one point, there were more volunteers than tasks available — and that was fine with Woodbury “Woody” Thompson. “If they don’t need me, I’ll just enjoy a nice meal,” said Thompson, 87. “I need to slow down a little bit, anyhow. I also volunteer at the Partnership Food Pantry.”
    Gary Nelson of Abbot also stopped by to see if he could help out. “I guess I’ll just be a customer today,” he said with a smile. “This is a wonderful community service.”
    Twin sisters Megan and Haley Bergeron, both juniors at Piscataquis Community High School, agreed. “We’ve been doing this for quite a few years,” said Megan. “Just to see the smile on people’s faces is worth it.”
    An added attraction was a table with donated knitted caps and mittens from Nancy Murphy – free for the taking. “I know there are a lot of families with youngsters who could use these,” she said. “I enjoy knitting. It gives me something to do during a long winter.”

NE-GuilFlower-DC-PO-49Observer photo/Mike Lange

    FLOWER GIRLS — Twin sisters Haley, left, and Megan Bergeron prepare the cut flowers for the Thanksgiving dinner tables.

NE-GuilFree-DC-PO-49Observer photo/Mike Lange

    FREE FOR THE TAKING — Nancy Murphy brings knitted caps and mittens to the dinner each year for families who need them.

NE-GuilDessert-DC-PO-49Observer photo/Mike Lange

    DESSERT TABLE — Cassidy Rohdin, 10, helps out with the dessert table at the Guilford community Thanksgiving dinner. She’s one of the youngest volunteers at the annual event.

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