Church continues Thanksgiving tradition

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Volunteer Joe Leclerc has a plate order filled out by volunteer Mary MacInnis during the annual free Thanksgiving dinner in 2011 held at St. Michael’s Church in Naugatuck. –RA ARCHIVE
Volunteer Joe Leclerc has a plate order filled out by volunteer Mary MacInnis during the annual free Thanksgiving dinner in 2011 held at St. Michael’s Church in Naugatuck. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Anyone looking for company and a meal Thanksgiving can find both at St. Michael’s Church.

For the eighth year the church at 210 Church St. will serve a meal on Thanksgiving to anyone who would like to join. The dinner will be served from 1 to 3 p.m.   

St. Michael’s Senior Warden Michael Lineweber said he and his wife Anna started the dinner because they began seeing a need for one.

“We just started feeling there was a need in the community for a dinner for the Thanksgiving holiday,” Lineweber said. “My wife and I felt that Thanksgiving was a time when people might be alone or in need of a meal.”

Lineweber said the meal isn’t just for people who have fallen on financial hard times, but for anyone who wants to enjoy a meal with others.

“We do it not only for people who might be light in the budget but for people who might be alone,” Lineweber said. “It’s partially about giving people a good meal, but it’s about providing a warm and welcoming environment with other people who will enjoy giving thanks.”

About 100 people attended the dinner the first year, Lineweber said. Since then attendance has risen to approximately 200 a year, he said.

“We try to set a family-style type of table. We use china, silverware and tablecloths,” Lineweber said. “Our guests are served. They just have to ask for what they want.”

Not all of the 200 people who have a Thanksgiving meal eat it at the church, Lineweber said. Typically about 35 people take a meal to bring to someone, he said.

“We don’t deliver but if anyone comes down and says, ‘I need a couple meals to take to somebody,’ we are more than happy to accommodate that need,” Lineweber said.

To ensure that the event runs smoothly Lineweber relies on the kindness of volunteers.

Volunteers come down the night before Thanksgiving to cut up vegetables and do some advanced food preparation, and between 35 and 50 people show up to help serve the meal, according to Lineweber.

Anyone who wants to help serve on Thanksgiving can come to the church around 12:30 p.m., Lineweber said.

Lineweber said many of the people who volunteer are also looking for a place to go for Thanksgiving.

“In many ways the people called to volunteer might just as easily be sitting at a table, but they don’t feel comfortable doing that,” Lineweber said. “The volunteers are people who might never have met before. They just show up and ask, ‘Can I help.’ Their reasons for being there are their own.”

In addition to the volunteers, many people help through donations of money and food, Lineweber said. All of the turkeys that will be served were donated by St. Michael’s parishioners.

The rest of the food will be bought with donations the church has received throughout the year. Lineweber said, with the exception of the turkeys, the whole meal can be put together for about $700.

Lineweber said all are welcome to attend the diner. There is no cost and no need to RSVP, just show up, Lineweber said. 

“My wife and I just felt that it’s a time when people shouldn’t be alone. People have powerful memories of Thanksgiving in their lives. Sometimes people’s lives change in ways they don’t predict,” Lineweber said.