Feeding 300 takes a lot of planning Organizing starts in September for free meal for needy

November 28, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Pat Kaczorowski can plan a free Thanksgiving dinner for 300 down to the last drumstick.

With four years' experience as the "supply sergeant" for the annual community dinner for the needy, she knows what she needs and how to get it.

Kaczorowski's shopping list includes 18 20-pound turkeys; about 40 pounds of bread for stuffing; and commercial-size cans -- 7 pounds each -- of green beans, carrots, sauerkraut and cranberry sauce. And there are desserts, drinks, paper products and cutlery, favors for the tables and presents for the youngest diners.

She starts organizing in September for the Thanksgiving meal sponsored by Shepherd's Staff, an ecumenical ministry in Westminster that provides the basics for the impoverished.

"I look at what we need and figure who uses that," she said. "By now, a lot of people I call know what I want. I don't look for dollars, but donations of products."

Nearly all area grocery stores supplied products or gift certificates for the dinner.

By yesterday, almost all of the traditional foods were stored in the cafeteria at St. John's Catholic School.

The turkeys will be roasted at several local restaurants and Westminster Fire Hall. Carvers are sharpening their knives -- no slicing with electric knives for these experts.

Donations filled every available space in the cafeteria.

"Do you have room for any extra milk?" Kaczorowski asked the cafeteria supervisor. "I'm having 200 half-pints deliv- ered."

Last year, nearly 300 guests of Shepherd's Staff dined at St. John. Organizers expect that number or more this year and prepared enough to serve 400.

"The way the canned-good donations are coming in, we could probably serve 500," Kaczorowski said.

Volunteers also have promised dinner deliveries to about 30 shut-ins and transportation to anyone who needs it.

"Most guests are from Westminster, but word has gotten out and they are coming from farther away," said Virginia Stoner, who oversees all of the cooking.

Each guest leaves the dinner with a bag of fruit and nuts and another full of staples -- enough for a day's worth of meals.

Kaczorowski does not worry about what is not in the pantry.

"It is amazing what turns up here Wednesday and Thursday," she said. "A genuine outpouring comes from the community."

Cakes and pies and a truckload of bread and rolls arrive at the cafeteria, she said.

Cooking and carving will start at 8 a.m. today. Dinner will be served from noon to 3 p.m. Stoner assigns volunteers two-hour shifts, but most do not leave when their work is done.

"I have outlined each step and everyone's job duties," Stoner said.

For health reasons, the chefs prepare the stuffing and bake it outside the turkeys. They carefully follow an old Stoner family recipe, using all fresh ingredients.

Peeling, slicing, boiling and mashing potatoes take up too much kitchen space. The instant variety is the only shortcut in the meal's many courses.

Stoner and Kaczorowski know their guests' preferences, too. Sweet potatoes were left over after two dinners, so they were scratched from the menu. Gelatin salads also fell quickly from favor. Now carrots and coleslaw fill in the vegetable gaps.

"We put out everything we have available," Kaczorowski said. "What does not go won't be served next year."

Judging from the noise in the dining area, the women said, conversation flows easily. But in case it stalls, they have assigned a volunteer to play host at each table.

"We want everyone to be at ease and connect with each other," Kaczorowski said.

A nursery with toys, games and baby sitters will entertain children who finish dining long before their parents.

No reservations are necessary for the dinner.

"Just walk in the door," said Stoner. "We would be delighted to have you."

Leftovers, if any, go to area soup kitchens tomorrow and Saturday.

St. John's is at 30 Monroe St., Westminster. Information: 239-3689.

Pub Date: 11/28/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.