The 31st annual Greater Towson Jaycees Senior Citizens Thanksgiving Dinner

Irma Peay, 74, claps to the music provided by the Parkville Baladiers from American Legion Post 183 at the 31st annual Greater Towson Jaycees Senior Citizens Thanksgiving Dinner at Towson Presbyterian Church. (Algerina Perna / The Baltimore Sun / November 21, 2011)

Julia Seeley, 10, burst into the bustling kitchen in a church hall shortly before 5 p.m. and shouted, "There's buses here!" The first guests began arriving nearly an hour early for a traditional Thanksgiving feast that was still in the making,

Although they were preparing about 200 meals, organizers of the 31st annual Greater Towson Jaycees dinner for seniors remained unruffled and on task. They mixed stuffing with herbs and broth and tended steaming caldrons brimming with sweet potatoes, green vegetables and sauerkraut, relying on the dining room help to tend to the guests.

Young greeters, stationed at the entry to Towson Presbyterian Church, ushered diners to their seats and offered hors d'oeuvres.

"Guests come in and leave with smiles," said Meg Fletcher, president of the Towson Junior Chamber, or Jaycees, and dinner chairwoman. "We wait on them and talk with them. It's a real opportunity to tell them we appreciate them."

The Jaycees' dinner, held Monday, is one of many this week that will provide food and fellowship. Several churches and organizations will be serving free Thanksgiving dinners today. Among those are:

•The annual Bea Gaddy dinner, which typically serves thousands, begins at 11 a.m. at the Patterson Park Recreation Center, 2601 E. Baltimore St. in the city.

•The Loverde Family Community Fund dinner for the homeless runs from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Rice Auditorium on the grounds of Spring Grove Hospital Center, 55 Wade Ave., Catonsville.

•St. Christopher Episcopal Church will serve from noon to 2 p.m. at 116 Marydell Road, Linthicum.

•Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Essex will serve from noon to 2 p.m. in its school cafeteria,1704 Old Eastern Ave.

•In Carroll County, St. John Catholic Church is hosting Shepherd Staff's annual Thanksgiving meal from noon to 2 p.m. at Monroe Street and Route 140, Westminster.

Many guests have returned to the Jaycees' meal year after year. Most said the anticipation of good company, especially time with kids, was as enticing as the savory aromas emanating from the kitchen. "Hi, hon" echoed throughout the spacious hall.

"The volunteers can't do enough for you," said Ines DiPaolo, 83. "The children are like Santa's elves on loan for Thanksgiving."

Zoe Aler, 76, said, "It's great to get out and socialize with so many people."

Catherine Fowler, 88, has come to the dinner the past four years and "blesses the Jaycees" for their kindness.

"It's great to be chauffeured here," she said. "Most of us can't drive at night any more. This way we get out and see the bright night lights."

Gerard Williams, 55, said he felt like he should be paying a hefty tab for dinner at a swanky restaurant. Haywood Butler, 70, liked the ambience.

"These volunteers are open-armed," Butler said. "There is nothing pretentious. They make us feel so comfortable."

Monday's dinner was a real treat for Joan Price, 77, who promised to cook for her family Thursday. She simply sat down and waited for dinner.

"This is not cafeteria-style," she said. "It's service. I don't have to cook or clean. And our servers are so adorable."