‘The most rewarding day’
Volunteers and donors make 20th community Thanksgiving dinner a winner
Twelve turkeys, 130 pounds of potatoes, 100 pounds of peas and corn, 72 boxes of stuffing, dozens of pies and several boxes of ice cream bars added up to a 20-year-old Woodstock tradition on Monday.
Unifor Local 636 and Operation Sharing hosted their 20th annual community Thanksgiving dinner at the Unifor Hall on Beale Street, providing a free meal to anyone who wanted it.
“It’s a day that’s very special to me,” said Scott Bradford, recreation committee chair with Local 636 and financial secretary for the union hall. “To me, it’s the most rewarding day of the year.”
Bradford has been involved in organizing the community Thanksgiving dinner for the past 15 years, and he said he starts getting things in place for the meal in the summer.
Things kick into high gear on Sunday, when volunteers start preparing for the feast, and they are back at it again by 7 a.m. Monday morning.
Bradford said the hugs and thanks received from guests make it all worthwhile.
“It’s always a pleasure,” he said. “They’re always appreciative of what we do.”
While union and Operation Sharing volunteers organize and run the event, it is supported by many others in the community.
The turkeys were donated by the Beachville Firefighters’ Association and the birds were cooked at Woodstock’s South Gate Centre.
Produce Express helped out with the potatoes, Woodstock Foodland donated pies for dessert and Woodstock Taxi provided free rides to and from the Unifor Hall.
Even the centrepieces on the tables were created and donated by the 15th Woodstock Girl Guides.
Organizers were prepared to feed 250 people on Monday, and Bradford said the number of people turning out to the meal are staying about the same.
“We serve until either (the food is) gone or everybody’s come,” he said.
If there are leftovers, take-out meals are made up for people unable to make it out, and if anything is left over after that, it goes to Operation Sharing ’s Bullwinkles eatery.
Local 636 recreation committee member Diane Colucci hasn’t missed volunteering at many of the community Thanksgiving dinners over the past two decades.
“I enjoy helping,” said Colucci, who does everything from helping prepare food in the morning to cleaning up after the last mouthful of food has been eaten. “I find it very fulfilling to come in and help the less fortunate.”
She said what she enjoys most is interacting with the guests, many of whom she has got to know over the years.
“I like to try to make them feel as welcome as I can,” Colucci said.
She said she’s grateful for the opportunity.
“As long as we can keep doing it, I’ll be here.”
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch and his family are also longtime volunteers at the meal.
“I always believed in helping my children understand how important it is to give back and give encouragement in our community,” he said.
He praised organizers and fellow volunteers for what they do.
“I see the same smiling faces here year after year giving back,” Birtch said. “Woodstock truly is the Friendly City. We have a very blessed community.”
Among the regular guests at the Thanksgiving Day meal, Randy Riley said he always enjoys the food and getting out to see people.
“It’s a good turkey meal, good pies and good service,” he said.
Volunteers Patti Wright, Cathy Olah and Carol Taplay were among those serving up a free Thanksgiving meal to anyone who wanted it at the Unifor 636 Hall on Monday. In its 20th year, the annual event is hosted by the Local 636 Recreation Committee and Operation Sharing.