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The Shepherd’s Staff fostering 'a little bit of fellowship’ with Thanksgiving dinner in Westminster

Lois Giles, who has volunteered with Shepherd's Staff for 22 years, talks with Harry Turner as he eats a Thanksgiving meal Thursday, Nov. 27 in Westminster.
Lois Giles, who has volunteered with Shepherd's Staff for 22 years, talks with Harry Turner as he eats a Thanksgiving meal Thursday, Nov. 27 in Westminster. (DAVE MUNCHSTAFF PHOTO, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The Shepherd’s Staff will host its 26th annual Thanksgiving Day Community Dinner, on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, an event that is free and open to anyone. The Westminster-based nonprofit is seeking donations to help make the meal go smoothly.

“We can use paper towels. We can use cold cups and hot cups, those types of things that will support what we are doing there,” said The Shepherd’s Staff Executive Director Brenda Meadows. “And baked things — we’re looking for fruit pies and pecan pies and brownies.”

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Rock Salt Grille, along with other local businesses, will be providing the turkeys and pumpkin pies, and the meal will also include gravy and mashed potatoes along with other Thanksgiving favorites.

Donations of stuffing, cranberry sauce and other Turkey Day accoutrements are also requested for the dinner, which will be held from noon until 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 28. Those interested in attending can simply show up anytime between noon and 2 p.m., at The Portico at 43 Monroe St., Westminster.

“Last year we changed the meal from being at the school cafeteria to The Portico,” Meadows said. “We were really happy with how it went last year, so we will continue that new tradition this year.”

That tradition also includes a more fine dining touch; diners will order off of menus and be served by volunteers who will bring food to each person at their table.

“It’s a softer feel, more of a traditional type sitting around a round table with family or friends,” Meadows said. “It sort of invites a little bit of fellowship.”

And that’s the point, Meadows said, of the meal. While The Shepherd’s Staff serves many people who have a hard time making ends meet, and they are all invited to the dinner, the meal, like the Shepherd’s Staff itself, is also about meeting people’s other needs

“It’s not only the folks that are in need from the perspective of they need a little help financially and they can’t do dinner on their own," she said. “There are also a lot of people who don’t have family, or can’t get to family at this time of year, and those folks come for the community.”

That desire for fellowship is manifested even when it comes to volunteers, according to Meadows.

“Thanksgiving is the most sought-after day to volunteer the entire year. We usually have all our volunteers for the Thanksgiving Day dinner by October,” she said. “I think it may be because some folks may not be able to get to where their family is, so this is something for them to do and a way for them to give.”

But there are those who, despite seeking fellowship and a warm bite, may not be able to attend the meal in person, and that’s why The Shepherd’s Staff will also have volunteers running meals out to people that day. Those needing that service must call 410-857-5944 to sign up.

“We would encourage them, if at all possible, to call us by Friday if they can,” Meadows said.

Because of those home deliveries, she said, The Shepherd’s Staff is also looking for donations of things like sandwich bags and pre-wrapped candy to make up to-go bags. All donations can be dropped off between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 27 at the St. John Westminster Catholic School’s cafeteria at 45 Monroe St., Westminster.

And beyond that, Meadows said, she hopes people will participate in one way or another in what has become a long tradition that can mean so much more than just another free meal.

“We had a gentleman a couple of years ago who was homeless and it was really cold out so he came in early. Someone let him know we weren’t quite open yet and he said he realized that; he just came in for the aroma of Thanksgiving,” she said. “The turkey and the stuffing and the pies — it took him back to a good place in his life.”

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If You Go

What: The Shepherd’s Staff’s Thanksgiving Day Community Dinner

When: Noon-2:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28

Where: The Portico, 43 Monroe St., Westminster.

Cost: Free

To register to have a Thanksgiving meal delivered to you on Thanksgiving Day, call 410-857-5944. To learn more about donating items for the meal, call 410-857-5944 or email info@shepstaff.org.

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