Volunteers serve up Thanksgiving dinner

Volunteers Jim Colgan, left, and Greg Rossi help prepare a Thanksgiving meal for the community at St Michael’s Episcopal Church in Naugatuck on Thanksgiving. -KAREN ALI/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — Even though it takes about 4 hours to wash hundreds of pieces of fine china and silverware after Thanksgiving dinner at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, organizers of the event say it’s well worth it.

“The whole reason for the china is because we are inviting everyone into the St. Michael’s family, and we wanted it to be special,” said Kimberly Rossi, who organizes the annual meal with her husband, Greg.

Paper plates and cups would save on the cleanup, but the day wouldn’t be as special, she said.

Kimberly Rossi oversees the dining room while her husband, who was a chef for almost 20 years, runs the kitchen.

“We get a diverse group of people who come,” Greg Rossi said. “Everyone sits at the same table. Nobody judges anyone.”

The Rossis live in Waterbury and are members of St. Michael’s.

The annual meal began 13 years ago, when Mike and Anna Lineweber organized it, but when Mike was ill a few years ago, he asked if they would take over.

“Mike wanted everybody to have a place to go to call home on Thanksgiving,” Greg Rossi said.

Hundreds of community members attended the Thanksgiving dinner last week and dozens, including children, turned out to volunteer. Some helped cook, while others served food to each table.

Jules Jodko, the rector at the church, said about 20 volunteers showed up the day before Thanksgiving to cook about 30 turkeys in anticipation of the meal. They also did prep work and set up the dinner tables.

Jodko said spending the extra time to make the Thanksgiving meal special is worth it.

“It gives people a little more feeling of respect,” Jodko said. “It was nicer to do it this way, to have people feel pampered and served, instead of a buffet line. It’s a nice touch.”

Jodko said most who come to the event do so for fellowship.

“They find this is an opportunity to eat so they don’t have to cook at home,” Jodko said. “Others are elderly.”

Michael Sokja and his girlfriend, Betty Jarvis, were among those who came for the meal.

“My girlfriend and I come every year to be with people,” Sokja said. “We come here to be thankful for what we have here in this country.”

Volunteers Donna and Don Hall said this is their first year volunteering.

“I always heard about the event,” Donna Hall said as she helped get dessert plates ready. “This is the first year I don’t have to host it at home.”