Turkey with all the trimmings for Havre de Grace community Thanksgiving

Rich Holly, left, who spent his career teaching at Havre de Grace High School, puts a tray of turkey in the serving line as volunteer Harry Johnson waits during the Give Thanks dinner sponsored by the Community Projects of Havre de Grace at St. Patrick Hall Thursday.
Rich Holly, left, who spent his career teaching at Havre de Grace High School, puts a tray of turkey in the serving line as volunteer Harry Johnson waits during the Give Thanks dinner sponsored by the Community Projects of Havre de Grace at St. Patrick Hall Thursday. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF)

Hundreds of people in need of a holiday meal Thursday received a hot Thanksgiving dinner, all for free, prepared by some of the top restaurant chefs in Havre de Grace.

"It's a free meal," James Gary Starr, of Havre de Grace, said as he dug into a tray of turkey and stuffing while sitting at a table in St. Patrick Hall. "It's good food, [and] I have no other place to go. Everybody's very sociable."


The nonprofit Community Projects of Havre de Grace Inc. took charge of the community's annual Thanksgiving dinner for the second consecutive year. The organization had help this year from the Downtown Havre de Grace Hospitality Organization, a recently formed association of restaurants in the city.

Rich Holly, treasurer of Community Projects, said a group of eight to nine cooks led by Bruce Clark, the co-owner and head chef of the Laurrapin Grille in downtown Havre de Grace, spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday preparing turkey, mashed potatoes from scratch, yams, green beans and gravy in advance of it being served to families and individuals in need at St. Patrick's Hall Thursday.


"We had all the drinks, and all the food cooked and ready to be warmed," Holly said.

Holly estimated 1,100 to 1,200 meals were prepared, and about three quarters of them were delivered to local homes to people who could not get out for the holiday.

The community dinner was started and put on each year by members of the Havre de Grace High School student community service group SMILES, or Service Makes an Individual's Life Extra Special. The group was founded by former Havre de Grace High School teacher and Harford County Board of Education member Don Osman in 1984. The group organized its final community Thanksgiving dinner in 2012. The group folded after the 2012-2013 school year, and Community Projects of Havre de Grace took over the dinner starting in 2013.

Osman is still a coordinator of the dinner, and he was on hand at St. Patrick Hall Thursday.


"Everything was cooked, ready to go, thanks to the staff at Laurrapin Grille," he said.

Current and former HHS students were among the volunteers helping serve and deliver meals Thursday.

Erica Gladfelter, of Havre de Grace, her husband, Brad, and their children, Autumn, age 13, Garret, 7 and Abby, age 3, delivered about 22 meals in Aberdeen and Havre de Grace.

Gladfelter and her husband are graduates of Havre de Grace High, 1996 and 1993 respectively, and she is a former member of SMILES.

"He's really instilled some great values in me," she said of Osman. "That's why I'm glad to be part of it and to show my kids how they can as well."

Gladfelter said she and her family visited a couple of large families, and many individuals who could not leave their houses because of being disabled or difficulty getting around.

"It helps them out a lot, to give them food that they need," Autumn, a Havre de Grace Middle School seventh grader, said.

Former Havre de Grace City Councilmember Joseph Smith said he was "one of many volunteers" who helped fill meal trays and then bag meals for delivery.

"We were grabbing trays, filling them up, coming back," he said.

Smith said he also volunteered last year.

"The community has done so much for me, I feel like it's time to give back in some ways," he said.

He said Community Projects "really helps pull the community together, and it's a great organization."

"It's a great way to get kids involved," he continued.

Havre de Grace High School students Lucy Brooks, a junior, and Zack Johnson, a senior, were on hand as volunteers.

Zack, who was volunteering for the third year in a row, got involved through his mother. He spent Thursday helping box and bag desserts.

He said the dinner "has its own feel."

"You don't realize the help you're doing until you're actually here, all together as a community," he said.

Lucy, who was participating for the second year, filled and served drinks, and then helped bag food and organize orders.

She said she learned about the dinner through her school's Key Club and National Honor Society; she is a member of both.

"Everyone's just super nice and helpful, and everyone's eager to help each other here," she said.

Christy Lewis, of Churchville, and her 7-year-old son, Ian, put meals in to-go boxes and prepared them for delivery while her husband, Brad, and daughter, Hanna, 10, were out delivering.

She said she had been looking for a Thanksgiving community service event the whole family could take part in.

Lewis said she and her son were also serving diners at the tables and clearing the tables.

"It feels good, to be able to do something for others, and for me as a mom it feels good seeing my children serve," she said.

Ian said his favorite activity was "taking trash from people," and he said he would volunteer again next year.

"It's the start of a tradition, for sure," his mother said.

Kevin Ruff Jr., of the Aberdeen area, volunteered with his wife, Monica Haskins, and service fraternity brothers, Marcus James and Melvin Adderly.

"Everyone's happy and pleasant, and it's organized very well," he said.

Ruff is a member of Iota Nu, the Harford County chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

He said volunteers and the diners were "just sharing some stories and open feelings about the holidays. It's really nice."

Earl Grace, 75, of Essex, said he has been coming to the Havre de Grace dinner for about 14 years, and that he usually spends the week of Thanksgiving getting meals from churches in Baltimore and Harford counties in order to save money.

"Because now, on a fixed income, I've got to do something.

Grace, who has done custom upholstery, wore a World War II bomber cap with various flags and insignia sewn on the front to honor Maryland's veterans.

"All our hearts go out to all the Marylanders who fought and died in every war, from the Revolution until now," he said.

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