‘We are here for you’: Volunteers prep for community meals on Thanksgiving

Employee Stephanie Jeffries and volunteer Janice Henderson cut up stalks of celery preparing for Thanksgiving dinner at Stone Soup Café in Greenfield.

Employee Stephanie Jeffries and volunteer Janice Henderson cut up stalks of celery preparing for Thanksgiving dinner at Stone Soup Café in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 11-21-2023 4:17 PM

GREENFIELD — After weeks of coordinating donations and organizing staff and volunteers, at least two local groups are ready to provide hot Thanksgiving meals to those in need on Thursday.

“I’m going to cook for 500 [people],” said Kirsten Levitt, executive director and chef at Stone Soup Café, the pay-what-you-can meal program serving weekly meals from All Souls Church on Main Street. “The need is large and lots of people are coming out and accessing our meal.”

Stone Soup Café will serve meals on Thursday after a vigil at the church from noon to 1 p.m., during which staff, volunteers and the community are invited to sit in solidarity with Indigenous people observing the National Day of Mourning in Plymouth.

“Thanksgiving is this really fascinating holiday … because for Indigenous people, it’s a day of mourning and remembrance of a genocide, and for the colonists, or descendants of the colonists, it’s become something very different,” Levitt said. “Local Indigenous people have shared with us that after the observance of the Day of Mourning, everyone sits down and feasts together. It has long been held as a belief of Indigenous people that sitting and eating together is an amazing act of building community. … We’re just following in the footsteps of those who knew better and continuing on traditions that build community.”

Levitt said at Stone Soup Café, “We’re calling it a day of giving thanks instead of Thanksgiving.”

Across town, Living Waters Assembly of God at 450 Davis St. will host a free holiday meal from 1 to 4 p.m. There is no need to sign up in advance, but any individual who lacks transportation can call the church at 413-773-9506 on Thursday to arrange a delivery.

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Funded by the church and community donations, including from local DJ and television personality Robert “Bobby C” Campbell, Living Waters typically provides between 160 and 170 meals per year, according to Keila Santana, a member of the church and the organizer of the annual Thanksgiving meal.

“It is very important that the church, in general, helps the community,” Santana said. “We are here for you and your family.”

This will be the church’s eighth year hosting the event, according to Santana. Guests are invited to sit down and enjoy a meal with others, or take food to go.

“We believe you shouldn’t be alone,” she said. “Especially on dates like this one, where lots of families get together, or friends … but sometimes, for so many reasons, people end up alone in their homes … and we want to be here as a friend with a decorated place, with homemade food and new friends.”

Levitt said Thursday’s meals at Stone Soup Café are made possible in part by donations from Diemand Farm in Wendell, Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, Just Roots in Greenfield, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Franklin County Community Meals Program, among others. This week, Levitt said as many 200 volunteers will donate their time, from food prep and packaging to delivery.

Even with support from local organizations, she said, Stone Soup Café will spend about $3,000 on food alone. People can donate through the website (thestonesoupcafe.org) or in person.

“We care deeply about meeting people’s needs and there are so many people for which this holiday is particularly difficult, or they don’t have someone to spend it with or they don’t have the food they would traditionally eat,” said Levitt. “We’re just really thrilled to be able to provide that. We’re also thrilled to be able to educate our community about the duality of this holiday in a way that feels like we’re honoring all traditions.”

In Orange, the Franklin County Community Meals Program will be serving biscuits and gravy, with a side of salad and a cookie at the United Methodist Church from 5 to 5:30 p.m. Meals are distributed at the church every Thursday.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.