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Filling the body, soul: 150 attend annual Survival Center’s pre-Thanksgiving meal

  • The desserts table at the Pre-Thanksgiving day meal put on by the Amherst Survival Center at the Immanuel Lutheran Church. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Maura Guzik reaches for desserts to replenish the dessert table at the pre-Thanksgiving day meal put on by the Amherst Survival Center at the Immanuel Lutheran Church. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Left, James Chiaro and Crissi Goddard say hello as they wait for the food to be ready at the Pre-Thanksgiving day meal put on by the Amherst Survival Center at the Immanuel Lutheran Church. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jay Frost serves himself turkey at the pre-Thanksgiving Day meal put on by the Amherst Survival Center. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Maura Guzik, helps Joanne Bradshaw get a dessert at the Pre-Thanksgiving day meal put on by the Amherst Survival Center at the Immanuel Lutheran Church. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mohamad Tahan and Sarah Tahan pour gravy over their dinner at the pre-Thanksgiving Day meal put on by the Amherst Survival Center at the Immanuel Lutheran Church, Wednesday afternoon. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Donna Hebert, left, and Avi Randall play music at the pre-Thanksgiving Day meal put on by the Amherst Survival Center at the Immanuel Lutheran Church, Wednesday afternoon. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Maura Guzik helps Maggie Collins,6, get a dessert at the Pre-Thanksgiving day meal put on by the Amherst Survival Center at the Immanuel Lutheran Church. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS



Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 05, 2017

AMHERST — With a seat near the musicians performing in one corner of the large hall at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Crissi Goddard said she was ready to be entertained by song, enjoy a great meal and have an afternoon of companionship.

“I’m looking forward to enjoying the company and meeting other people,” said Goddard, an Amherst resident attending her first pre-Thanksgiving meal put on by the Amherst Survival Center Nov. 22.

At a nearby table, Charlie Hall of Hadley, an 18-year volunteer at the center, said he always makes a point to come to the event, so long as he can get a Pioneer Valley Transportation Authority van to pick him up.

“I come every year if I’m able to,” Hall said. “My friends are here and it’s becoming better every year.”

More than 150 people attended the annual meal, where, over the course of 90 minutes, they were served turkey and a number of side dishes, and regaled by the sounds of northern fiddle tunes.

Donna Hebert, an Amherst resident who has been playing fiddle for 60 years, was joined by performers, organized by Tim van Egmond, on guitar, mandolin, hammered dulcimer and piano.

“This is fun because it’s a party,” Hebert said. “It’s a kitchen party.”

“Food fills their body, but music fills their soul,” Hebert said.

Tracey Levy, the program manager for the center, said the meal consisted of 14 turkeys and platters of stuffing, mashed potato, roasted vegetables, squash, macaroni and cheese, lasagna and sweet potato.

This year marked the first time that Becky Lockwood, the center’s kitchen coordinator, oversaw the work taking place in the kitchen, getting help from some regulars, including Florrie Paige, working her 10th year at the event, members of the Rising family, who again carved the turkeys, and Don Sabola, the chef at Worcester Dining Commons at the University of Massachusetts, who was back for a third year.

“It’s good company, it’s away from the university, it’s something different,” Sabola said.

In the hour leading up to the meal being served, the kitchen workers accepted prepared food donated by community members and local businesses. As platters arrived, they were placed into a food safe hot holding area or moved to the stove or oven where it could be cooked.

Among those bringing in food was Kathleen Kelly of South Hadley, who brought turkey and a tray of mashed potatoes.

“It’s just a way to give back to the community,” Kelly said.

A tradition also continued with 30 pies, including apple and pumpkin, made and donated by the students at North Star Self Directed Learning for Teens in Sunderland.

Lockwood described the pre-Thanksgiving dinner as taking the daily meal prepared at the center’s site at 138 Sunderland Road site on the road. Despite the added work, she said it is well worth it.

“It really does provide something,” Lockwood said. Guests, she said, would not only get the meal, but would have food to take home for Thanksgiving Day, and the weekend ahead.

Levy said about 30 volunteers participate in the event, decorating the tables with tablecloths, flowers and balloons, cutting the pies into slices and filling out cards listing the ingredients in each dish and potential allergens, from nuts and oils to gluten and soy.

Linda Dagilus, an employee at Greenfield Savings Bank, and her daughter Ivy Cloninger, 8, both have been volunteering for three years.

“It’s a wonderful event to serve so many people,” Dagilus said.

Dagilus said employees at the bank have volunteered for several years. She and Ivy coordinated the drinks, ensuring that those attending the meal always had cold beverages to drink. “I like to organize the drinks and I like to help out,” Ivy said.