Greenfield community groups host Thanksgiving meals for those without a place to go

  • Stone Soup Cafe volunteers and executive director Kirsten Levitt, second from left, fill up a plate during their annual Thanksgiving dinner at All Souls Church in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members gather for Stone Soup Cafe’s annual Thanksgiving dinner at All Souls Church in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Stone Soup Cafe’s annual Thanksgiving dinner at All Souls Church in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Stone Soup Cafe executive chef and executive director Kirsten Levitt talks with community members attending the annual Thanksgiving dinner while musician Michael Nix performs at All Souls Church in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members gather for Stone Soup Cafe’s annual Thanksgiving dinner at All Souls Church in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Jared Raymond, of Greenfield, prepares a plate during a Thanksgiving meal at the Green River House on Thursday. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Jared Raymond with his dog, Diamond, at a Thanksgiving meal at the Green River House on Thursday. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Volunteers Trouble Mandeson and Kim Scammon push a potato-laden cart from All Souls Church to Hope & Olive, where chefs were preparing a free Thanksgiving meal. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Slices of pie await guests at the Living Waters Assembly of God’s annual Thanksgiving meal on Thursday. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Suzanne Gamlin, a staff member at Clinical & Support Options, prepares pie for guests of the Green River House’s annual Thanksgiving Day celebration on Thursday. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

Staff Writer
Published: 11/28/2019 10:57:47 PM

GREENFIELD — When Grace Cushing was a youngster on her parent’s Kentucky farm, her family made it a point to be together for Thanksgiving every year. The following day, per tradition, her grandfather would butcher “a cow, or a pig, or both,” she recalled.

These days, there’s no more butchering and her family isn’t local. Regardless, Cushing, now of Greenfield, gathered around a Thanksgiving table on Thursday and celebrated the holiday with loved ones.

“We’ve made our own family. We’re all family here,” she said, motioning to a dozen others who were enjoying a hot meal of turkey and potatoes at the Green River House on Franklin Street, a facility operated by the Northampton-based behavioral health agency Clinical & Support Options.

For many, Thanksgiving is synonymous with an abundance of food, cozy home atmospheres and family gatherings. But for others, it can be a difficult holiday, according to Kim Thibault-Britt, director of the Clubhouse program, a rehabilitation program for those with mental health challenges that includes members from both the Quabbin House in Orange and the Greenfield facility, which hosted Thursday’s meal for the 31st year.

“It’s a very lonely time for some people — their family might not live in the area, or they might not choose to connect with their family, or vice-versa,” Thibault-Britt said. “For some members of the Clubhouse program, it’s their only meal.”

The annual free feast, which featured homemade dishes for around 60 people made by members and staff, fills a void. For David Farrar, of Greenfield, Thursday’s dinner was home away from home. As a youngster growing up in Lexington, Farrar said he spent the holiday with family. But these days, his parents are no longer alive and other family members have moved from the area.

The Clubhouse, of which he’s a member, is a way “to connect and share,” Farrar said.

Clubhouse members weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the meal. Family and friends — both human and furry — were also in attendance. At one table, Jared Raymond, of Greenfield, sat down to eat with his dog, Diamond, a Siberian husky. This year, Raymond said he’s particularly grateful “for family, friends, and a good life — and grateful for support.”

Stone Soup Cafe

Preparation for the city’s four community dinners — the Green River House’s meal, another at The People’s Pint, a third hosted by Living Waters Assembly of God, and a fourth at Stone Soup Cafe in All Souls Church — started early. Around 8:30 a.m., the downtown strip was quiet except for a few early risers walking their dogs and two volunteers preparing for Stone Soup Cafe’s annual Thanksgiving dinner. Trouble Mandeson and Kim Scammon could be seen pushing a potato-laden cart from All Souls Church to Hope & Olive, where chefs were preparing the meal.

“The kitchen at the church isn’t humongous,” Mandeson said, motioning to two bins of chopped potatoes. “I think there are 100 pounds of potatoes (total).”

Later in the morning, a tantalizing aroma wafted through the church’s side door. Inside, musician Michael Nix played the seven-string banjo as guests settled in before the meal, which was donation-based.

In a side room, Kirsten Levitt, executive chef and executive director of Stone Soup Café, described the day’s offerings to a group of volunteers — butternut squash bisque; garlic mashed potatoes topped with parsley; braised greens; mushroom lentil loaf; turkey, brined for two days then roasted and cut off the bone, topped with house-made gravy; bread, dehydrated overnight and re-hydrated with vegetable stock; cranberry chutney; pumpkin cheesecake with a gingerbread crust; and apple crisp.

“It’s five-star dining,” said Cori Bialic, of Greenfield, a dinner guest. “You can’t get better quality of food, of people, of welcomeness. Five stars. It’s very unique. In my 64 years, I’ve never seen anything that comes close to this. It’s exceptional.”

More than providing delicious food, Stone Soup Cafe created a welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of a family dinner.

“My husband had to work, so I would have been sitting at home alone. It’s nice to have community,” said Ruth Witty, of Greenfield, noting that while she has family, they weren’t able to make it this year. Nearby, Prima Chadwick, of Shelburne Falls, said, “I don’t have any place to go — these are all my family.”

Living Waters Assembly of God

Creating family was a theme that was prevalent at Living Waters Assembly of God, too. Keila Santana, of Greenfield, organizer of the church’s fourth annual free community meal, said the dinner has become their primary Thanksgiving tradition.

“There’s no better way to say ‘thank you’ than to share,” Santana said while making last-minute preparations before the anticipated 100 or so guests arrived. She noted the food was either donated by church members or purchased through a fundraising effort led by Bobby “Bobby C” Campbell, a local radio personality who also writes a weekly column for the Greenfield Recorder.

This year, Campbell said roughly 50 people and five organizations contributed about $7,400, feeding an estimated 1,300 people, including those at the church.

“There were so many pieces to this puzzle — so many different people, so many different organizations. It was amazing,” said Campbell, who first put on the initiative four years ago and raised enough for about 250 dinners. In addition to Thursday’s meal, the effort also paid for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Salvation Army at the Greenfield Alliance Church, and about 100 individual family meals that were distributed Sunday.

In addition to typical Thanksgiving fare, the Davis Street church’s meal featured a Puerto Rican rice dish that’s traditionally served for the holiday on the island. Santana, a native of Puerto Rico, brought the recipe with her when she came to the mainland. It consists of rice, pigeon peas, Spanish sausage, tomato sauce, peppers, garlic and onions. Also unique to the Living Waters Assembly of God’s meal, Santana’s husband Tony Cruz noted, was that free transportation was offered to those who didn’t live close by.

The People’s Pint

At around noon, The People’s Pint on Federal Street, which hosts a community meal called “Thanksgiving for the People,” was packed, with about 60 people seated at tables enjoying turkey and potatoes or sipping hot cider while waiting in line for a seat.

In its seventh year, General Manager Josh Breitner estimated that between 250 and 300 people attend the pay-what-you-can meal. Proceeds from donations benefit a number of different organizations, including The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

“It’s really nice,” Breitner noted, “that it brings together different groups of people who wouldn’t normally be together during the holiday.”

Andy Castillo is the features editor at the Greenfield Recorder. He can be reached at 413-772-0261, ext. 276 or acastillo@recorder.com.




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