turkey dinner

Volunteers peel butternut squash in preparation for a past Thanksgiving Day meal at the Congregational Church of Mansfield. The meal will be served this Thursday for the 33rd year.

MANSFIELD — For more than three decades, volunteers have been providing free Thanksgiving dinners to area residents at the Congregational Church.

Randy Pickus has been there for 15 of them.

Now the co-chair of the effort, she said the dinner started out as something for elderly residents but has grown to include anyone who wants to attend.

This is the 33rd year and the menu, as always, remains the same, with baked turkey purchased from Willow Tree and homemade potatoes, vegetables and stuffing prepared by the volunteers.

Most of the volunteers shop for food, peel potatoes and help serve the food, but David Anastasi has done most of the cooking for years.

“He’s been doing it forever and he’s wonderful,” Pickus said.

She said about 50 to 75 people come for the meal and food is delivered to about 40 more. The dinner starts at 1 p.m. at the church.

The tradition was started because there were people in the area, mostly elderly, who didn’t have a family to share the holiday with.

“I wasn’t there in the beginning, but it started because some people needed a place to go for Thanksgiving,” Pickus said.

She said both the volunteers and the diners enjoy it because they tend to see a lot of the same people every year and get to catch up with what is new in their lives.

The group needs donations to keep the tradition going, however, and people can contribute by mailing checks made out to Friends of the Elderly, c/o Randy Pickus, 2 Fairfield Park, Mansfield, MA 02048.

Anyone can drop in for a meal, she said, but they prefer if people call ahead to make a reservation at 508-851-9414.

Another popular Thanksgiving event is the Norfolk Grange’s annual Thanksgiving dinner. It will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday. It features a full Thanksgiving dinner with dessert and coffee.

This event is free, however donations are accepted. If you need transportation, provide your address and you will be picked up between 11:30 a.m. and noon.

For more info, email norfolkgrange135@gmail.com or call 508-507-8007.

The Grange is located at 28 Rockwood Road (Route 115).

Jim Hand may be reached at 508-236-0399 or jhand@thesunchronicle.com.

You can follow him on Twitter at @TSCpolitics.

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