LISBON — Since his divorce, Joe St. Amant hasn't had a family to share a Thanksgiving meal with. But St. Amant was whetting his appetite Thursday for a turkey dinner with his "extended family" at the American Legion Post 158, which hosted its third annual Thanksgiving dinner.
The Post offered the free meal for "whoever needs a place to go," said Theresa Watson, who was in charge of the kitchen Thursday.
Her sister Anne, who tends bar at the Post, came up with the idea three years ago. Because she was always working on Thanksgiving Day, she would be talking to people who had no other place to go for the holiday. Why not serve them a Thanksgiving dinner, she thought.
The first year, she and her sister paid for the meal out of their pockets. The next year, the Legion chipped in. Now, the cost is also shared by the Legion's auxiliary and the sons of the Legion, plus they accept donations.
The first year, they served 25 people; last year, 50. This year, they expect to feed 80 people, including veterans and their families.
The Watson sisters' father served in the U.S. Navy for two decades. Anne's husband, Jack LaChance, is a Vietnam War veteran, she said.
Red checkered table cloths decorated the room. Against one wall, a giant television showed a football game.
A pool table served as a make-shift buffet counter.
St. Amant, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who lives in Bowdoin, said he spends most of his days at the Lisbon Post. He said he has been eating Thanksgiving dinner as the Post for as long as they've been offering.
"It's great," he said. "This is super."
Besides donating to defray the cost, he helps out by washing dishes afterward.
He said he knows most of the post members.
"The Legion is my extended family," he said. "We may not all get along all the time, but we all help each other out all the time. That's guaranteed."
Joy Berry, 48, of Gray, is a U.S. Navy veteran. Like St. Amant, she's divorced.
A member of the Post for about 15 years, she said, "It means a lot" to have a place to go for the holiday meal.
"I just feel very comfortable here," she said.
Her children have Thanksgiving dinner with their father, she said, "So, I'm alone."
Of the Legion members, she said: "They're all my friends. So, it's nice to be able to have a place to go and spend time with people that care about you and you care about them."