It’s been 398 years since the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Tribe shared a meal at the Plymouth Colony in November of 1621. That meal — ham, waterfowl, shellfish, berries, pumpkin and squash — is commonly thought of as the first Thanksgiving.
While the menu has changed — unless you’re a member of the O’Gorman household, where shellfish is plentiful — the spirit of the holiday has remained intact: to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and to share that harvest with those who are hungry.
Around the area, many organizations are stepping up to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to break bread with their neighbors and to take a moment to reflect upon the privilege of living in Vermont.
Meals on Wheels of Lamoille County is also offering a free Thanksgiving meal; dinner is open to everyone, regardless of age.
“We are open to the public for anyone who doesn’t have anywhere to go or would like to join us,” said Cathy Snow — a volunteer and a member of the Meals on Wheels board — as she drove to Costco to pick up a stack of pies for dessert.
The dinner will be at the Lamoille County Civic Center, 24 Main St., Morrisville, with seatings at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
“This is for people who have nowhere to go or nobody to join,” Snow said. “We invite anyone who wants to and is able to join us.”
Last year, the dinner served 81 people; so far, 25 people have made reservations, “but we know there will be walk-ins and drop-ins,” said Snow, who encouraged people to call and make a reservation.
For regular recipients of food from Meals on Wheels, the Thanksgiving dinners will be delivered a day early, on Wednesday.
Information: Lamoille County Civic Center, 24 Main St., 888-5011.
Lamoille Community Food Share expects to give out between 500 and 600 Thanksgiving dinner baskets for families throughout the county.
While the organization bought 150 turkeys this year, it relies heavily on donations, many of which come by way of “Chris’ Challenge.”
“The challenge started in 2000 when Chris Potter approached us and said that every family should have the opportunity to have a Thanksgiving meal,” recalled Roland Lajoie, program director and morning host of radio station WLVB. “He came on the air with me one morning and challenged the community to match his donation of 20 turkeys to the local food shelf. That year, we collected 250 turkeys.”
While Potter died in 2001, the radio station has kept the challenge alive, with Lajoie estimating the annual drive has collected 20,000 turkeys over nearly two decades.
Earlier this week, it was all hands on deck as volunteers worked to finish the baskets, which vary in size depending on the family.
“It’s great to see the community be so generous,” said Caroline Ballard, a board member of Lamoille Community Food Share.
“It’s a huge amount of work. I personally haven’t eaten turkey for a long time, because when you hand out 500 turkeys, you end up not wanting to eat it,” Ballard said, jokingly.
By the time this story went to press, the organization had distributed its baskets for the holiday.
The Waterbury Area Senior Center will hold its 17th annual Thanksgiving meal, which is open to anyone older than 60.
The meal, which is served free of charge, is a tradition that dates back to 2003, when it was organized by Albert Caron, owner of Waterbury Service Center.
Each diner is allowed to bring up to four family members, and for people unable to leave their homes or who lack transportation, volunteers will be delivering Thanksgiving dinners and picking up area seniors who wish to attend the meal in person.
Information: Waterbury Area Senior Center, 14 Stowe St., 244-1234.
While there are no community meals scheduled, there is an opportunity to get out of the house and away from the big-screen TV.
Stowe Arena will host “Turkey Skate” from 10 to noon.
“It’s an open-skate that a lot of families have made part of their Thanksgiving tradition,” said recreation director Matt Frazee.
Admission is $5, and skate rental is also $5. Punch passes will be accepted.