Scittino's of Catonsville to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for homeless

Josie Schroeter will have had plenty of practice by the time she prepares Thanksgiving dinner for the two dozen guests who come to her house for dinner at 3 p.m.

Schroeter is cooking dinner for 160 homeless men and women expected to attend the fifth annual Loverde Family Community Fund Thanksgiving dinner.

The Catonsville native, who now lives in Worthington, said she would start cooking the eight 20- to 25-pound turkeys and the rest of the fixings on Nov. 21. She hopes to finish up Nov. 23.

In order to make sure her family's dinner is also ready on time for the holiday, Schroeter will prepare a couple of items each night the week leading up the holiday, she said.

"This is a lot more than we usually handle," Schroeter said of Thursday's annual dinner 1-3 p.m. at the Rice Auditorium on the campus of Spring Grove State Hospital Center. "I have plenty of help here. We'll get the job done. We always do."

Schroeter is co-owner of Scittino's Italian Market Place with her brother, Sal Schittino.

Their 39-year-old restaurant at 1701 Edmondson Ave. typically caters small office or house parties, Schroeter noted.

But for the first time it will serve the guests at the five-star event thrown by Joe Loverde, a Catonsville real estate broker.

The menu will include 60 pounds of stuffing, four gallons of cranberry sauce, five gallons of gravy, 80 pounds of mashed potatoes, 60 pounds of green bean casserole, 20 pumpkin pies, 17 dozen rolls and, of course, all the turkey.

"We're going to make sure the people going to this (dinner) are going to get a nice home-cooked meal," Schroeter said. "In these horrible economic times, it's even more important to give to the people you know are less fortunate."

The dinner guests are from the Westside Men's Homeless Shelter, Mosaic Community Services and Spring Grove Hospital, Loverde said.

"It's a worthy cause," Schittino, an Ellicott City resident, said, noting the restaurant will use about $2,000 worth of food to prepare the dinner. "I'm fortunate that I have a healthy, happy family, so I like to give back when I can."

More than just dinner and dessert, the feast includes music by the Van Dykes, a rhythm and blues band that has played in the area for decades, an appearance by Santa Claus and gift bags filled with toiletries and other goodies for the guests.

All told, the event will cost about $3,500, Loverde said.

"Scittino's has a great reputation," Loverde said. "To be able to get somebody to do something on Thanksgiving day at cost these days, they have to have a good heart."

Instead of a serving line, Mary Toth, a volunteer at the dinner since its inception in 2007, said guests sit at round tables, which encourage conversation, and are served by waiters.

"It's very much as if they're in their own homes," Toth said. "That's a little different than a lot of the places that do this."

For Toth, the day provides perspective .

"People get in economic problems for all kinds of reasons. They lose their jobs or get sick," Toth said. "You really realize it when you see it up close that none of us are very far away from that."

Robert Greenwalt, a Catonsville resident who has served food at the event each year, said he has noticed one change each year that's not necessarily a good thing.

"The one thing that strikes me is, it seems every year the numbers are increasing instead of decreasing," Greenwalt said. "I guess the ultimate goal of this is to not have to do it."

Greenwalt, though, said he looks forward to helping out and that he gets the same feeling from other volunteers.

"It's always good to help out during the holidays," Greenwalt said. "It's a natural time to think about other people who don't have the benefits of family and warm surroundings."

"You just get a good feeling from everyone involved," he added.

Like many of the 40 volunteers, Schittino will give up a day off to help at the event.

But since his business closes only four days a year, when Schittino delivers the food to the auditorium and helps out, it's a little more significant sacrifice.

"We're happy to do it," Schittino said, noting he hopes to do it again next year.

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