Community Thanksgiving dinners set for Havre de Grace, Bel Air

Large community dinners will again be served in Havre de Grace and Bel Air on Thanksgiving Day.
Large community dinners will again be served in Havre de Grace and Bel Air on Thanksgiving Day. (AEGIS FILE PHOTO / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Community dinners on Thanksgiving in Harford County have seen some organizational shuffling lately, but residents looking for a place to get a hot meal and a warm welcome on Nov. 27 will still have two places to go this year.

Large community dinners will again be served in Havre de Grace and Bel Air. A dinner at the Rogers Street firehouse in Aberdeen, organized in the past by a Havre de Grace church, however, will not happen, Aberdeen officials said.


The most high-profile community dinner is still at St. Patrick Hall, off of Pennington Avenue in downtown Havre de Grace, which grew out of the effort begun by the former SMILES student-service group at Havre de Grace High School that helped run the large event.

This will be the second year the dinner is being organized by a committee of the Community Projects of Havre de Grace Inc., treasurer Rich Holly said.


Organizers said this year's meal is moving forward with renewed and re-energized support from the community.

Laurrapin Grille is stepping up to cook the dinners, which means visitors will get pieces of whole turkey, along with gravy and mashed potatoes.

The town's newly-formed restaurant association is also donating food, Laurrapin Grille's Bruce Clark said.

"It's just a good thing to do," Clark said of the dinner. "It makes a lot of sense."


Clark already has received about 900 pounds of turkey, much of it from his vendors, and he is hopeful Community Projects can keep the annual event thriving.

"The organization that formed is truly a community organization," he said.

Although the annual dinner has always included some help from restaurants, "it's more involved" this time, organizer Don Osman said.

"It's becoming more of a community activity," added Osman, the former HHS teacher and Harford school board member, who organized the dinners as the original sponsor of SMILES.

Despite the SMILES group becoming inactive, Osman still expects many of his former students to show up to help with the dinner.

The event, which will again run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., regularly gets hundreds of volunteers, as well as people to partake in either the sit-down dinner or a delivered meal.

Osman added he just ordered 200 apple and pumpkin pies from Weis Supermarkets, with enough food to feed about 1,200 people.

Delivery requests for the Thanksgiving meal continue to pour in. Osman said he got 26 just on Tuesday.

The dinner's organizers are also trying something new this time, asking each volunteer to bring a non-perishable item to be distributed to area food pantries.

Osman said they are especially asked to bring one of four specific items.

"People really like the peanut butter, jelly, tuna fish and cereal, so we are going to try to get as many of those as we can," he said.

Holly said supermarkets like Save-a-Lot are also providing products and MacGregor's restaurant is offering vegetables like green beans, corn and yams.

Baltimore's Leonard Paper Company is supplying most of the paper products the dinner uses, he said.

"We always prepare for a slightly bigger crowd," Holly said, noting volunteers prepare 1,100 to 1,200 meals, with about two-thirds of them being delivered to sites like nursing homes.

The dinner, which is always accepting donations, has enough funds to stay active for the time being, Holly said.

"We wanted to keep this dinner going as long as we can," he said. "Last year we had an outpouring of cash."

"We want it to continue and grow," he said.

In Bel Air, Saint Margaret Parish will hold its third annual community dinner from noon to 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day at the church on Hickory Avenue. It will take place in the school hall.

That meal has been in partnership with New Hope Baptist Church on Alice Anne Street.

Organizers are also offering to carry-out meals this year and make sure "anyone who needs it leaves with some extra food," according to a release sent by Saint Margaret.

Those interested in getting on the pick-up schedule should contact Marie Dekowski at 410-879-2670, ext. 126, or mdekowski@stmargaret.org.

Dekowski, a church employee, said she expects even more visitors this year, coming up from Catholic Charities, FCCAU (Faith Communities and Civic Agencies United) and the county's Office on Aging.

She also said requests from people to volunteer are pouring in, especially from families.

"My phone is ringing off the hook," she said. "We could do five more dinners."

Dekowski is encouraging them all to come and socialize with the visitors.

"I noticed last year we had a lot of seniors whose families weren't with them and they were just alone," Dekowski explained.

Despite the potential for an influx of people, Dekowski said she is not sure exactly how many might come. The church is again preparing enough to feed 300, with a menu that includes turkey, cranberry sauce, green beans, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes.

"We are going to stay with that same type of menu and we pray we have enough of everything," she said. "We don't know what to expect, but we are ready."

"We feel it's very important to keep the dinner going," Dekowski said. "We are a city church and there is a need here, a lot of need."

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