400 guests expected at group meal

November 24, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

As volunteers diced vegetables and fussed over pots steaming in the kitchen, a young man came into the school cafeteria with a 25-pound turkey.

"Can you use this?" he asked.

"We promise we will put it to good use," said Virginia Stoner, coordinator of the Shepherd's Staff Thanksgiving Community Dinner.

Ms. Stoner was not surprised at the last-minute generosity.

"A lot of people have it rough, and Carroll County is responding," she said.

Shepherd's Staff, a cooperative outreach ministry, is catering Thanksgiving dinner for 400 or more today, at least 100 more than at the first community dinner last year. From noon to 3 p.m., 125 volunteers are staffing the kitchen and tables at St. John's School, 30 Monroe St., Westminster.

The volunteers are roasting, cooking and baking, and they know their guests will come. Those who don't have transportation will get a free bus ride from four city locations or delivery of a carry-out dinner.

Kathy Brown, director of Shepherd's Staff, said the festive meal is for those who are in need of food and company.

"Some can't afford to prepare a large dinner," she said. "Others don't have anyone to share the day with."

The number of needy has grown, she said, along with word of the dinner.

"We started advertising early, and this year we have a way to get people here," said John C. Radcliffe, who becomes chief chef for the day. "This is just a dream we put together to help our neighbors."

Mr. Radcliffe spent the better part of yesterday setting up his kitchen "stations" in the school cafeteria.

"When you are cooking en masse, you have to be prepared," he said.

Serious cooking began about 7:30 a.m. today, and the stoves don't stop until about 3 p.m.

"It is a long day, but worthwhile," he said. "I get to see people really enjoy a good meal they wouldn't get otherwise."

Mr. Radcliffe has one advantage over other holiday cooks. After hours at the stove, he won't be scouring pots and putting the kitchen back in order. He leaves the cleanup to another crew.

Linda Sterner began enlisting volunteers a few months ago. She has scheduled crews to set up, cook, serve and clear.

"The majority came back after volunteering last year," she said. "We have families spending their day here and kids earning community services. Everybody wants to help."

While 380 pounds of turkeys roasted in ovens at the Westminster Fire Hall and the Westminster Inn yesterday, volunteers adorned the cafeteria with balloons and festive fall decorations.

Each diner has a place mat with pictures of pilgrims, turkeys or cartoons, thanks to the sixth grade at Westminster West Middle School.

One child drew two large hands clasped together and wrote, "Friendship is the key to happiness." Another pasted newspaper comic strips and wrote, "I hope you get a kick out of this."

Girl Scout Troop 332 in Hampstead made 450 favors filled with candy corn. Straw wreaths and garlands hung at the windows. Floral centerpieces and cornucopias sat on the tables.

Ms. Brown arranged each setting with the care she would give in her own house.

"We want our guests to feel like they are having dinner in someone's home," she said. "The decorations are all part of the festivity."

The dinner was months in the planning.

In July, Pat B. Kaczorowski began her campaign for donations to fill the tables with food. She asked nearly every business, school and church in the area for help.

"I hardly ever heard 'no' to any request," she said. "It makes me realize why I live in Westminster and enjoy Carroll County so much. So many are willing to provide for people who can't do for themselves."

Ms. Stoner said the staff can feed 500. They will have to serve in shifts in the 200-seat cafeteria.

Ms. Kaczorowski's husband, a police officer, will be working his beat on Thanksgiving. She and her 4-year-old son, Christopher, will be sharing the meal with the diners.

"We had about 30 children last year, and it was so nice, I know many will come back," she said.

Each child leaves with a "goodie bag" of crayons, coloring books and a toy, said Ms. Stoner. Adults receive a bag of fruit, nuts and hard candy.

Ms. Stoner said that, while turkey is the most popular menu item, desserts are a close second. She promises plenty.

"We put a plea out for pies and cakes, and we got them," she said. "We even have a tray of baklava."

The popular graduation punch, a mixture of tea, fruit juices and spices, will repeat as the beverage.


"Several community groups can use whatever we have cooked," she said. "The canned goods will go to area soup kitchens."

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