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St. Margaret's fourth annual Thanksgiving dinner goes on despite brief power outage

A late-morning power outage in downtown Bel Air didn't stop dozens of volunteers, organized by St. Margaret Church, from serving Thanksgiving dinner to at least 100 people for the fourth consecutive year.

Marie Dekowski, St. Margaret's organizer, was busy directing food servers and incoming volunteers in a darkened auditorium at St. Margaret School shortly before noon.

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The food was prepared earlier in the gas-powered kitchen, keeping things running fairly smoothly despite the outage, which Dekowski said was caused by a squirrel tripping up a power line.

The morning Mass at the church was made possible by candles and phone-based flashlights, volunteers said. BGE's online outage map showed about 200 customers without power that morning in an incident "caused by wildlife."

The lights did come on right after the meal was set to start at noon, drawing cheers from the room full of volunteers and people walking in through the door, ready to sit down at tables festively dressed for Thanksgiving.

Dekowski was expecting about 60 volunteers, from both St. Margaret and "a lot of different denominations," such as Bel Air's Calvary Baptist Church.

She was struggling to find work for volunteers who were showing up on a whim that morning.

"I have had eight people wanting to volunteer for every person we need," she explained, adding the dinner is clearly needed.

"I have gotten a lot of calls from people who are just so lonely," she said.

About 80 deliveries and carry-outs had been made earlier that morning, Dekowski said. Harford County's Office on Aging took meals to residents in their care.

"This year we added 'Take a Meal,' so we have had a lot of phone calls for people who are doing that," she said, explaining people are welcome to pick up meals for those who may need a Thanksgiving dinner.

Those volunteering in the kitchen were ready to serve upward of 250 to 300 people, she said.

"It's been a lot of fun, a lot of support from the community, plenty of volunteers, people who come back year to year," Bel Air's Chris Hack, a St. Margaret parishioner, said.

He works for a food service company and was one of the leaders behind the scenes in the kitchen, watching over pots on the stove and spooning mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy into molded plastic trays as Joe Novad helped.

"We are on a roll now," Hack said about the busy operation, noting the power outage was not an issue. "We were fortunate enough that we had everything cooked, so we were still able to keep everything at the right temperature."

Lamont Harbison, a Bel Air resident who said he attends St. Margaret and a parish in Timonium, was helping in the kitchen for the second or third year.

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"I just like helping the people. I am a people person," he said.

The Malone family was among those who came in ready to serve, with John and Marian Malone, along with their daughter, Natalie, already wearing aprons.

Marian Malone explained they had Thanksgiving several weeks earlier to coordinate their four children's schedules.

"I think it's a great way to give back and be thankful," Natalie Malone, who lives in Baltimore but grew up in the St. Margaret Parish, said. "I live in the city, so I see a lot of people that need help down there."

Sara Jane Gove came from Rising Sun for the dinner, and she picked up a friend from Elkton and another from Aberdeen along the way.

"It's a nice variety and it's always good," Gove said about the food at the meal, noting this was her third year attending.

"This is nice;" Ann Burns, of Aberdeen, added. "I don't have to cook, and it's good food."

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