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In Scituate, a thankful community gives back

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 18, 2011 12:52 PM

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When Colleen and Bill McCall moved to Scituate in 2005, they felt that something was missing.

Despite the community gatherings around Heritage Days and the Santa by Boat celebrations, Thanksgiving was just a small celebration spent with families, individual homes thankful in thousands of different places.

But for a couple thankful for community, there seemed to be something lacking.

It was a feeling that spawned the Annual Community Thanksgiving Feast at the Harbor United Methodist Church, a chance for anyone nearby to come out and celebrate the holiday as a community.

The free event comes with no strings attached, and the McCalls spend weeks prepping with neighbors and volunteers to look for donations, cook the food, and even serve it in a sit-down service to whoever shows up.

“Food shopping and everything, it takes a lot,” Colleen said. “Then we have people who provide the baked pies for us, and we’ve had Girl Scout troops help us set up and decorate. Its been hodge-podge each year -- we take what we can and go from there.”

The turnout is not something anyone can predict, and the diversity is exciting and intriguing, Colleen said. A mix of small families, elderly residents, people just visiting town, and even some homeless people come out to enjoy the massive feast, featuring all the typical Thanksgiving fixings as well as desserts and appetizers.

“Our mission is to get anyone who doesn’t have the wherewithal to cook the meal but wants to enjoy the meal with other people to just come on down,” Colleen said. “It is free, and we have in the past provided transportation if someone doesn’t have a way there.”

The group typically cooks for 150, though they have yet to have more than 100 people show up.

It's an event that has evolved from an initial celebration the McCalls did in Connecticut in their hometown next to Waterbury.

In that community, the point was to give the Soup Kitchen a day off and feed the hungry on one of the most festive days of the year, Colleen said.

“Scituate is very different. It's much smaller, it's not a city, and there’s not a lot of homeless, …We try to just make it not really about anybody who is lonely or depressed or homeless, we make it about anybody who needs to come to have a good time with good people and enjoy a delicious dinner,” she said.

The turning point for the celebration occurred last year, when the McCalls were days away from the celebration with practically no volunteers.

Suddenly, Scituate resident Chris George called the couple up volunteering with a group of neighbors.

“We’re interested in trying to give back, and have pointed to Thanksgiving as an opportunity to do that,” George said. “We’re trying to engage our children in the concept of giving back and volunteerism. [A few years ago] we started at the food pantry, and we able to rally the troops, get ingredients for 70 families for Thanksgiving dinner.

"Last year…they didn’t need the help. They had all the supplies they needed for Thanksgiving. But they introduced me at that point to the McCalls, and this group started to refocus and get involved in this activity.”

According to George, the day has evolved into not only a day of thanks, but also a day of giving back.

“If you’re a parent, especially in the South Shore, your children might grow up and not appreciate the value of money, take for granted what it is that they have access to every day,” he said. “We’re embracing the others that aren’t so well off, and don’t have it to easy, and do everything we can to help them enjoy Thanksgiving like we do.”

People are encouraged to show up at 11:30 a.m. The festivities last until 2 p.m.

RSVPs are appreciated, but last minute guests are never turned away. Participants are invited to call 781-545-0818 to make a reservation or if someone needs a ride to the event.

For more information, click here.

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