Out & About: VLGS Thanksgiving meal returns, adding to Upper Valley options

  • Len Angelli, right, of Grantham, N.H., carries trays of food while putting together 1,800 Thanksgiving meals on Wednesday, Nov., 24, 2021, at Sacred Heart Church in Lebanon, N.H. Volunteering with him are Jerry Bieszczad, of Grantham, N.H., and his sons John and Ed. For the dinners, Angelli cooked 136 turkeys, 700 pounds of potatoes, 700 pounds of squash, 45 pans of stuffing, 40 pans of carrots and made 14 five-gallon buckets of gravy. Meals are delivered on Thanksgiving Day. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley News file — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2022 1:30:13 AM
Modified: 11/19/2022 1:30:13 AM

Dozens of people can once again gather in person for a free Thanksgiving Day meal at Vermont Law and Graduate School in South Royalton.

The meal will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the school’s Chase Community Center. Volunteers will also prepare and deliver meals to dozens of residents in Bethel, Chelsea, Royalton, Strafford, Sharon and Tunbridge. People can request meal deliveries and RSVP to the in-person dinner by emailing communitythanksgiving@vermontlaw.edu or by calling 802-831-1373. Include a name, phone number and either a delivery address or state that you will be attending in-person. RSVPs can also be called in to Carol Greene of the Heartland Lions Club at 802-291-3750.

“I am just very happy that we’re able to do this and to give back to the community,” said Jefferson, vice president of community engagement and government relations at VLGS. “So many people are lonely during that day.”

The meal has taken place annually since the late 1990s, save for a couple years during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While a smaller meal took place last year, Greene said, this is the first time since 2019 it will be at this scale.

“I think it’s just great that we can bring this back,” Greene said.

She and Jefferson stressed that the meal is not just for people who may be struggling to afford the fixings for Thanksgiving; it is for anyone who wants to gather together on the holiday, regardless of their circumstances.

“We want people to be able to come here and interact,” Jefferson said, noting that the Chase Center can accommodate around 200 guests. “Human interaction, kindness will go a long way.”

The meal costs between $3,000 to $4,000, Jefferson said. She attributed the higher-than-expected amount to the rising cost of turkey. VLGS president Rodney Smolla has donated money, along with nonprofits like the Lions Club, area businesses and community members. Food distributors that stock VLGS have donated supplies including potatoes and butter. In years past, attendees were asked to contribute a monetary donation; this year the organizers have decided against doing that.

“Just come and donate your service,” Jefferson said. Volunteers are needed to chop vegetables beginning around 3:30 p.m. Monday and to pack meals beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday morning. Drivers are being recruited to deliver the meals and will begin leaving VLGS around 10 a.m. Additionally, people are needed to help clean up after the in-person meal. Those interested can call or email to sign up.

Greene herself has volunteered for the meal with her family since 1999, a year after her sister died on Thanksgiving in 1998.

“It is rewarding to see everybody working together,” she said.

For around 20 years, Jefferson hosted an informal meal at her home, welcoming upward of 50 people from the school community who might not have had a place to go for Thanksgiving.

“It was just a joy. They’d be in every room of my house, out on the front, out on the balcony,” she said.

Jefferson sees working on this meal as a way to bring community members and those who are associated with the school together.

“I’ve been out trying to strengthen the town and gown relationship,” Jefferson said.

“I’m a community person. I love people. I love working in the community. I love just helping and trying to spread kindness and make this a better world. I’m more than happy that we’re able to do this.”

Community Thanksgiving meals in the Upper Valley

Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Windsor: Sunday, Nov. 20, noon to 1:30 p.m., 4 Court St. Hosted by American Legion Auxiliary. Free. 802-674-9967.

Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Lebanon: Thursday, Nov. 24, Sacred Heart Church, 2 Hough St. Call 603-448-6575 by Tuesday, Nov. 22, to request a meal. Pick up and delivery only. Pick up meals between 9 and 10:30 a.m. Volunteers also needed.

Community Friendsgiving in Bradford, Vt.: Friday, Nov. 25, noon to 2 p.m., The Space on Main, 174 Main St. Guests are invited, but not required, to bring a dish to share. Free. RSVP required: thespaceonmain.org/programs/community-friendsgiving.

Editor’s note: Email additions and updates to calendar@vnews.com.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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