Gobbling up Thanksgiving dinner in Northampton

  • Carl Erickson, the president of the board of directors at MANNA, welcomes all to the Thanksgiving Day meal on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Debra Novitch serves Sheree Goldberg at the MANNA Thanksgiving Day meal on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Debra Novitch explains the menu choices at the MANNA Thanksgiving Day meal to JD Edwards. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rebecca Martin gets dessert with her son Rowan Martin at the MANNA Thanksgiving Day meal at Edwards Church in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • JD Edwards takes a picture with Jacob Koffman at the MANNA Thanksgiving Day meal on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Art Schutt, left, helps Kim Carlino fill the food trays with hot water in preparation to serve the MANNA Thanksgiving Day meal. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Theresa Helke fills to-go containers at the MANNA Thanksgiving Day meal on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lindon Lewis and Steadroy Bradshaw fill dessert trays at the MANNA Thanksgiving Day meal at Edwards Church in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 11/28/2019 10:58:53 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Edwards Church was bustling with volunteers early Thursday morning in preparation for the annual Thanksgiving Day meal provided by MANNA and served to those in need.

“We normally have at least 100 volunteers to make this happen,” said Kim Carlino, a MANNA board member. “This year we have had a lot more people reaching out to help, and by 9:30 this morning we had a line of volunteers wrapped around both sets of stairs to help make deliveries.”

Aaron Morgan, 21, and Jason Norman, 22, both of Amherst decided to forgo their Thanksgiving celebrations with family this year and instead made three deliveries together to people that are homebound.

“It is better to do things for others than for ourselves and we think it is important to help look out for the community,” Morgan said.

According to Larry Field, a MANNA board member, 275 meals were delivered to 123 locations.

By 11:30 a.m., guests were arriving for the sit-down meal, complete with salad, turkey, mashed potatoes, carrots, squash, a selection of pies, cakes and donuts for dessert with apple cider and hot coffee to round out the meal.

“This year we had 40 turkeys,” Field said.

Sixteen round tables each with seating for seven were all filled with diners as volunteers worked as waitstaff, bringing food and drink to guests.

“I absolutely love this, and I can’t believe it, but my doctor is actually waiting on me,” said Karen Jacques of Northampton.

Some, like Anthony Polk, were homeless and appreciated the hearty meal.

“The food is very, very good and the portions are good,” Polk said.

Another guest, Joseph Oliver, is a former chef and business owner from New York who now lives in Northampton. He had high praise for the event.

“This is so delicious I can’t stop eating,” Oliver said. “It’s authentic and I am overjoyed with a meal like this — not to mention the great job that everyone here is doing.”

Carlino said that volunteers began doing food prep for the event on Tuesday.

“It takes a lot of work to coordinate something like this, but I enjoy it,” Carlino said. “Especially at a time when there seems to be a lot of negativity out in the world, people like to feel useful.”

For volunteer Monty Weaver, the event has special meaning.

“Last year I came here to eat, so this year I came to work and give back,” Weaver said after he finished setting tables.

Currently homeless in Northampton, Weaver, who has battled alcohol addiction, said he is working hard to get back on his feet and that having a supportive community is making that goal possible.

“Having things like this in such a positive environment where you can fellowship and network with others is very helpful,” Weaver said.

Carl Erickson, president of MANNA’s board of directors, estimated that by 2 p.m. roughly 300 people would have been fed at the church.

“That is different than the first meal 33 years ago when they had 12 people,” Erickson said.

Erickson, who has been working the Thanksgiving event for 28 years, was happy to meet Karen Jacques, who said that her mother Jeanne McGrath was instrumental in helping to establish the Thanksgiving meal at the church.

“It is one of the reasons I enjoy this meal, because, in a way, I feel like my mother is here too,” Jacques said with a warm smile.

As there is nothing quite like Thanksgiving leftovers, guests were allowed to pack up some extra goodies to enjoy later.


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