FARMINGTON — A traditional Thanksgiving Day meal will be served from noon to 1 p.m. Nov. 27 in the food court at Mt. Blue High School. The meal is free, but donations are accepted.

Reservations for home-delivered meals and takeouts must be made by Monday, Nov. 24, organizers Gerry Gilman and Nancy Lake said.

A call from those who plan to eat at the food court would also be appreciated, Lake said. People may call Gilman at 649-5449 or Lake at 491-4287.

Volunteers deliver meals all over Franklin County, Gilman said. In order to line up drivers to deliver meals, they have to have the routes planned before Thanksgiving Day.

“People have already started calling,” he said. “About a half-dozen a day for the past week and a half. It usually doesn’t happen until this week — the week before Thanksgiving.”

Lake drove 170 miles to put up 100 posters before Halloween this year, he said.

The Thanksgiving meal, sponsored by the Scottish Rite Masons of Augusta Valley, is prepared for 500 people. That means 27 turkeys, 250 pounds of potatoes, 200 pounds of squash, 500 rolls, 26 loaves of bread for stuffing and 85 pies, he said.

“No one gets turned away,” he said. “Nothing goes to waste. It all gets used. Even the turkey carcasses are taken home by some volunteers to boil down and make turkey broth.”

And it takes volunteers to make the annual meal happen.

Soon after the couple arrives at the high school at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, volunteers start coming, he said. Many bring donated turkeys they have cooked at home. 

The volunteer cooks were each given a roaster pan, bag and instructions on how to cook the bird to ensure the meat is cooked correctly, Gilman said.

Lake also solicits the 85 pies from local bakers. Many of those are seniors, Lake said.

At about 7 a.m., a crew starts picking apart the cooked turkeys. Volunteers peel and wash potatoes and squash. One man works on stuffing; another makes all the gravy, he said.

Those with nothing to do that morning are invited to join them, he said.

“If I can’t find them a job, there’s coffee available,” he said. “I want them to feel a sense of belonging, a place to be.”

The school donates the space and the 500 rolls. 

“It’s great they donate the facility and rolls,” he said. “We try to leave the kitchen the way we found it.”

The delivered meals go out first, then takeouts are available before diners are served, he said. The volunteers eat last and then the cleanup crew comes in.

Last year, 486 meals were served.

The Scottish Rites Masons have served a similar meal in Gardiner for 20 years. This is the 12th year in Farmington, Gilman said. 

“It’s a labor of love,” Gilman said. “We’re not paid but we’re rewarded.”

When a man came to the door at closing time last year, he wasn’t turned away, he said. A half-dozen meals were donated to his family, who was staying in a local motel. No questions were asked, he said.

The Mercer couple start putting the feast together in early September.

“When all is said and done, we stop at Douin’s Market for a pizza on the way home,” he said. The next morning, everything is inventoried and an evaluation is done to see if improvements are needed, he said.

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