It’s not just a meal. It’s a sense of belonging.
Hundreds of people turned out Thursday for the community Thanksgiving dinner put on the Rutland Lodge of the Loyal Order of the Moose.
The doors to the basement dining room opened at noon, with a trickle of early-bird diners who enjoyed a traditional holiday plate of turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
One of those early-birds was William H. Thompson Sr., of Rutland.
“I try to make it every year if I can,” he said.
And what keeps him coming back every Thanksgiving for the past 10 years?
“The good meals and the good company,” Thompson said. “The food is good, but another reason I come is I see a lot of my old friends.”
One of those friends was Rutland resident Barbara Therrien.
“He picked me to come and have Thanksgiving with him,” said Therrien, who was sitting at a table with Pat Brandeberry, of Rutland.
“It’s a place to go, rather than be by myself today,” Brandeberry said.
And that’s kind of the point, said Mike Burke, a past governor of the Lodge who had the task of being in charge of the meal.
“This is a way of giving back to the community,” Burke said as he took a moment break from serving up plates of food in the kitchen. “Some people don’t have families, so they can come here and be part of our family today.”
While there were few people in the dining room after the doors opened at noon, Burke and a small army of volunteers had already boxed up more than 100 Thanksgiving dinners, which were being delivered by a rotating team of drivers who rolled in and out carrying food.
Inside, 14-year-old Jarred Hayes — wearing his Boy Scout uniform — moved among the tables, pouring water and boxing up slices of pie for delivery.
“This is my eighth year volunteering,” said the Castleton Village School student and member of Den 110. “I started in the kitchen and worked my way up.”
When asked why he was serving food instead of home watching football, Hayes said, “I would rather be doing something for a good cause than be staying home doing nothing. This is important because not everybody can afford a dinner.”
Jeff Beattie reflected on the kindness of the folks at the Moose Lodge, and of Rutland residents in general.
“I don’t know anybody in Vermont, and it’s such a rare feeling of belonging when you don’t know anyone,” Beattie said. “I just got out of jail after a long, long stint, and in this community, there isn’t the prejudice. People are willing to give you another chance.”
And sometimes the people who receive help end up giving back. David Call arrived in Rutland from Burlington seven or eight months ago, and by his own account, he was pretty down on his luck. Today, he manages the Quigley Guest House in Rutland. Thursday, he was wearing an apron and serving food.
“I’ve gotten everything I ever wanted back,” Call said. “This community has been so kind, between BROC and the Salvation Army and everyone else. This is my greatest Thanksgiving day ever.”
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