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Preparations begin for annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner

BRATTLEBORO—Since its first dinner four decades ago at the former Common Ground restaurant on Elliot Street, the annual Brattleboro Community Thanksgiving Dinner has opened its doors to one and all on the last Thursday of November.

This year’s meal will be served on Thursday, Nov. 28, from noon to 5 p.m., at the River Garden on Main Street.

The small army of volunteers that makes the free dinner happen each year has begun its preparations for this year’s feast, according to organizational committee member Lindsay Cobb.

Cobb has been volunteering for the dinner for nearly a decade. He says he and his fellow volunteers “have got the routine down to a system,” but they are always on the lookout for new people who wish to help.

It takes a lot of cooks, servers, runners, drivers, and dishwashers to prepare a meal that feeds more than 600 diners at the River Garden, as well as delivers meals to homebound community members within 10 miles of downtown.

Donations are a big part of the annual effort. According to Cobb, food is donated from grocery stores, restaurants, and local farmers and food producers. Cash donations from local companies and individuals also help pay for the cost of producing the meal.

“It’s been a good year for apples, and we’ll be getting a lot of root vegetables from Harlow Farm (in Westminster),” he said.

The dinner is served buffet-style and includes turkey, roasted root vegetables, gravy, ham, mashed Gilfeather turnips, garlic potatoes, apple crisp, and pies. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available.

Katherine Barratt, another longtime volunteer, said nothing goes to waste at a dinner. “All the food gets dispersed one way or another, and any leftover produce goes to the Drop In Center,” she said. “It’s tough to get an exact estimate of how many people will be eating, but we want to make sure that everyone gets a meal.”

Most of the food is prepared in the kitchen of the Masonic Temple on Main Street, but other community member prepare desserts and entries in their home kitchens.

“We need a lot of ovens, so if anyone wants to roast a turkey for us, give us a call,” said Cobb.

Barratt said she thinks the best feature of the annual dinner is how it “helps us move away from all the discord.”

“Thanksgiving is a great day where everything is kind of left at the doorstep,” she added. “What we do is provide some respite and give everyone a chance to enjoy a meal. And we get to serve it on good plates with silverware, thanks to Experienced Goods.”

Cobb said that on the day before Thanksgiving — the big food prep day at the Masonic Temple — and Thanksgiving Day, he and the volunteers “work harder than we do in our daily jobs, but we love it.”

That’s because Cobb believes the dinner represents the one day that Brattleboro can “share a meal and help one another.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #228 (Wednesday, November 6, 2013). This story appeared on page A1.

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