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Towson Jaycees offer a feast of goodwill for local seniors

Area seniors were treated to a Thanksgiving feast on Monday, Nov. 19, at Towson Presbyterian Church, thanks in large part to the continued effort of the Towson Junior Chamber.

President-elect Christine Rogyom, 30, of West Towson, said the annual Thanksgiving dinner, which has been faithfully held for the past 32 years, is the civic group's flagship event each year.

"I think it's a great event we really love putting on," added Liz Ray, the group's acting president. "It's one of the things that makes this chapter of the Jaycees so strong, the community involvement."

Ray, 36, of Perry Hall, said the group's decades of experience in staging the event has made it an efficient, and rewarding, process each year. Her favorite part is seeing the smiling seniors, both on their way in and out of the meal.

"I think they like knowing people do actually care," Ray said. "So many residents of nursing homes … they don't have a chance to have an actual Thanksgiving dinner."

Rogyom said 181 residents of area nursing homes, including St. Elizabeth's House, Trinity House, Virginia Tower and Pickersgill, were scheduled to attend the meal, though volunteer John Schissler said they were prepared to feed 250 people Monday evening.

Schissler, 60, of Lutherville, served food for the first Jaycees Thanksgiving dinner, then moved to the kitchen and chaired the second event. He's been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the county's senior citizens ever since.

Schissler and his "expert turkey slicer," Tom Barczak of Phoenix, said it takes many sets of hands to help prepare food with him, a process that begins days before the meal is served and includes 11 turkeys, artillery-sized cans of apple sauce and sauerkraut, and 30 pumpkin pies.

Much of the food was donated by local supermarkets, such as Santoni's Market, Mars and MOM's Organic Market of Timonium.

With the army of volunteers, bus drivers from the Baltimore County Department of Aging's County Ride program and singers from the Parkville American Legion Baladiers, the food was available to feed more than just the senior citizens.

Yet even if the cooks overestimate their guests' appetites, the extra food doesn't go to waste. Schissler said leftovers are taken to Baltimore soup kitchens, where the food can last several days.

"We feed everybody," said Barczak, a 26-year veteran of the Thanksgiving dinners.

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