Singer Orman Morton Jr., known by the stage name “Skip 'M',” began entertaining guests and volunteers at the annual Havre de Grace community Thanksgiving dinner around noon Thursday with his renditions of classic oldies songs.
One guest, Aberdeen resident Debbra Mason, joined Morton on the microphone and the pair sang a duet of Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” earning Mason applause from those gathered in the Havre de Grace Community Center.
“It was good; I’m glad everybody enjoyed it,” Mason, who sings with a band, said of the opportunity to perform.
Mason attended the community meal, which was put on by the Thanksgiving Community Dinner Committee of the nonprofit Community Projects of Havre de Grace, with her 7-year-old grandson and two friends.
“I like getting out to meet people,” Mason said. “All I do is work and sleep.”
She said it was good to be able to bring out her grandson, as he could “meet new people, meet new faces.”
“I think this is special, that they have this [dinner] every year,” Mason said.
This year is the 31st for the annual Havre de Grace community Thanksgiving meal, which could be eaten in-house at the community center or delivered to people in need in Havre de Grace and the surrounding areas.
At least 1,100 meals were prepared and sent out for delivery this year, according to Don Osman, chair of the Thanksgiving dinner committee. Many more were served in-house starting around 11:30 a.m. Thursday, although organizers would not known the final tally until later on Thursday, according to Osman.
This year is the first that live entertainment, as provided by Morton, has been available, Osman said.
Morton volunteered his services, one of 250 to 300 people who volunteered Thursday, according to Fred Wills, who coordinated meal preparation. The volunteers, working with food and supplies either donated by or purchased from area businesses, prepared and packaged the delivery meals, drove them to the homes of recipients, served meals at the community center, kept guests company while eating and cleaned up.
Wills noted that the afternoon phase is “the relaxing part” of the community dinner. Volunteers spent about 90 minutes during the morning putting together the roughly 1,100 delivery meals.
“That’s a lot of meals to go [out] in an hour and a half,” Wills said.
About 1,000 of those meals were put in eco-friendly containers in anticipation of Maryland’s ban on styrofoam containers, Wills said. The ban, which takes effect July 1, 2020, is an effort to reduce the amount of non-biodegradable polystyrene materials that get into the state’s landfills and waterways.
Organizers had to purchase the eco-friendly containers, but they are working to get a better price for next year’s dinner, according to Wills.
“We’re gradually migrating” to the new materials, Wills said.
Celebrate with the community
Mason came to the dinner at the recommendation of her friend, Alicia Goodman, also of Aberdeen.
“We don’t really have a lot of family with us, so I just thought it would he a good idea to come out and mingle with the people and celebrate the meaning of thanksgiving, and what better way to do it than with the people from the community?” Goodman said.
She added that “we know Thanksgiving is all day, every day.”
Havre de Grace native Art Simon attends the dinner every year. He said “Don Osman puts on a nice program” and that volunteers serve “a first-class meal.”
“It was nice music for everybody,” Simon said when asked his thoughts on the live entertainment this year.
Breiana and Damon Presberry, who are students at Havre de Grace High School, and their fellow high school students worked the serving line. They, along with a few adults, heaped servings of stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkey, corn, string beans, cranberry sauce and gravy onto guests’ plates.
Guests also could get drinks, salads and pieces of pie.
“It’s nice to help people, give back,” Damon, a sophomore at HHS, said.
The Presberry siblings have volunteered at the community dinner for the past eight years. Their parents were out delivering meals Thursday.
“I enjoy helping the people that live in the same community as me, and if they are less fortunate and don’t get to have Thanksgiving with their families at home they come out” to eat with the community, said Breiana, an HHS senior.
The dinner has gone through changes over the years, in terms of organizers, locations and other annual tweaks.
“We’re adapting to all the changes that they’re making, and [we’re] still able to give back,” Breiana said.