Anyone in need of a holiday meal this Thanksgiving because they can't, for whatever reason, share one with family or friends, has their pick of meals offered by community groups and houses of worship around Harford and Cecil counties.
The largest and longest-running community Thanksgiving meal will be Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, in the Havre de Grace Community Center at 100 Lagaret Lane near Meadowvale Elementary School.
The Havre de Grace High School student community service group SMILES, or Service Makes Individual Lives Extra Special, put the dinner on from 1987 until the group disbanded after the 2012-13 school year.
Community Projects of Havre de Grace Inc. has been putting on the dinner since 2013. The dinner is being moved to the community center this year from St. Patrick Hall. More than 1,000 meals were served, either at the church hall or to those who could not leave their homes, last year.
Don Osman, a retired HHS teacher and founder of SMILES, who is now head of Community Projects' Thanksgiving Dinner Committee, said the Archdiocese of Baltimore is requiring volunteers age 18 and older to go through a background check before working at a church event, which is why they decided to move to the community center.
Osman said close to 300 volunteers, of all ages, are expected to participate this year and "that's just hard to manage" so many background checks.
"I understand where they're coming from, but we found another place," he said of the Archdiocese.
The meals will be served at the community center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers will start delivering meals around 10:30 a.m. Osman said volunteers should arrive at 9 a.m.
Osman noted many diners have been able to walk to the church in past years. A shuttle bus will stop on Pennington Avenue next to the high school faculty parking lot to take people to the community center.
Volunteers are also needed to bring people to and from the dinner.
Restaurants and supermarkets in the Havre de Grace area have donated food for the dinner. Bruce Clark, co-owner and head chef for Laurrapin Grille, as he did last year, heads the group of local restaurant chefs to cook the meals.
Osman praised Rich Holly, a former HHS teacher and treasurer for Community Projects, for working behind the scenes to coordinate donations and the meal preparations.
"He's just worked tirelessly to get this thing going," Osman said of Holly.
Monetary donations are still needed to support purchases of materials such as carry-out containers, tablecloths, plastic eating utensils and cups.
Donors can make checks payable to Community Projects of Havre de Grace Inc. and write "Thanksgiving dinner" on the memo line. They should be mailed to: Community Projects of Havre de Grace Inc., 224 North Washington St., Havre de Grace, MD, 21078.
Anyone who wishes to volunteer or request a meal should call Osman at either 410-939-5412 or 443-243-7493.
Bel Air - Armory
Two community meals are scheduled in Bel Air this year.
The first will be from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, at the Bel Air Armory at 37 N. Main St. Hope in Action, a ministry of White Marsh-based Central Christian Church, will put the dinner on with support from Temple Adas Shalom in Havre de Grace.
The Armory serves as the Bel Air campus for Central Christian Church. Hope in Action volunteers serve meals to people in need at the Armory each Sunday.
The church draws its members from Baltimore and Harford counties, and Bel Air resident Bonnie Prater is the leader of Hope in Action.
It's free to anyone in need," Prater said of the sixth annual Thanksgiving meal.
She said 150 people were fed during last year's event.
Prater said church member Kathleen Kropp has made a donation to purchase 15 turkeys that will be cooked by Beiler's Bar-B-Que, a vendor at the Amish Farmers Market in Joppatowne. The Amish vendors also donate food for the ministry's Sunday meals.
The church will provide side dishes, and Temple Adas Shalom members will provide music, Prater said.
The dinner is open to local veterans, active-duty military members and families of both. They do not have to be members of the American Legion, but "we sure would like to make them one," post Commander Doug Hornberger said.
Hornberger said about 80 meals were served last year. He said people who want a meal delivered should call the post at 410-642-2771, but the commander stressed deliveries should be limited to the Perryville area.
The post will provide the food from its own stocks and area contributions. Anyone who wants to donate money can bring it to the post or mail a check, Hornberger said.