Community's cooperative spirit adds warmth to holiday meal

Volunteers, donations are integral parts of agency's dinner

November 22, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Victor Sciukas will be navigating the grocery aisles this week, studying a list that would intimidate the most experienced shopper. He needs a dozen hefty turkeys, numerous cartons of stuffing mix and fresh fruit by the case.

"I never shopped for 350 before," said the Finksburg resident. "I guess the stuffing mix will tell me on the back of the box about portions, and I will figure it out from there."

Christ the King Lutheran Church in Owings Mills, where Sciukas is a member, recently received a $1,000 grant from Aid Association for Lutherans toward a community project. The church chose the seventh annual community Thanksgiving dinner in Westminster, a meal that is free and open to all.

"We have enough money to do this," said Sciukas. "It is nice to go out and buy things for those who need it. We have the resources. There are people who are not part of this booming economy."

Sciukas called Kathy Brown, director of Shepherd's Staff, a Westminster ministry that sponsors the dinner.

"She gave me a list for everything from turkeys to paper products and dish-washing soap," he said.

Organizers are expecting at least 350 people for turkey and the traditional trimmings, and they will be delivering dinners to at least 75 more who cannot make it to the cafeteria at St. John Catholic School.

"This is not like a soup kitchen, and it's not just a meal for the poor," said dinner coordinator Kathy Reid. "It's for those who are alone and want to share a meal and friendship. We want it be a social hour."

Shepherd's Staff volunteers collect donations, cook and serve the dinner, and clean up. They also put together bags with fresh fruit and snacks for diners to take home.

Various organizations and restaurants will roast more than a dozen turkeys Tuesday. Reid will be looking for help to cook the 22 turkey breasts she has in the freezer at her home in New Windsor. She also is expecting at least 65 pies and assorted baked goods Wednesday from kitchens across the county. "We always have so many donations and more volunteers than we have jobs," said Reid. "It is a truly happy dilemma. There has always been a huge amount of cooperation from merchants, organizations and the community, too."

Preparations will begin about 8 a.m. Thursday, when turkeys are carved and vegetables prepared. The dinner starts at noon, but guests frequently arrive for coffee at 10 a.m. and linger until 2 p.m. The cafeteria can seat more than 100 at a time, and no one is rushed.

Meals go out to homebound diners before noon. With carry-outs available later in the afternoon, leftovers are one tradition this dinner lacks.

"We have never run out, but there is never much left," said Reid. "Whatever there is we give to the Westminster soup kitchen for Friday's meal."

Dinner is served from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria at St. John School, 43 Monroe St., Westminster. No reservations are necessary. For delivery or emergency transportation, call 410-857-5944.

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