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Thanksgiving dinner a first for American Legion


November 18, 2009
NORTHFIELD — Recognizing the increased need in the community this year, American Legion Post 49 is opening its doors on Thanksgiving Day to provide a hot meal to senior citizens and needy or homeless people.

Though the American Legion has always helped the community throughout the holiday season and beyond, this is the first time the organization has held a Thanksgiving dinner. If it is successful, it will become an annual tradition, said American Legion Auxiliary Unit 49 President Jacki Newton.

The dinner was the brainchild of the auxiliary, but it has become a project for the whole Legion.

"The membership jumped right on board and said, 'We'd love to help you,'" Newton said.

Newton said the club has talked about hosting such an event before but never did it, partly because there are a number of churches and food pantries in the area that hold similar dinners. This year, however, there was more concern that because of the increased number of local residents in need, the facilities that usually host such dinners wouldn't be able to accommodate everyone.

"There's a lot of places (that do this), but we just felt, if there's no dinner (left) there, come over here," Newton said.

The dinner will be traditional and include turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, peas, butternut squash, rolls, and a variety of pies. All of the turkeys are being donated by Legion members, and members as well as local citizens have signed up to donate other food items. Newton said there is a list at the Legion that's filling up quickly with donations. In the event that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving arrives and there's not enough food available, Newton said the auxiliary has money set aside specifically for this event, so they will buy whatever they need.

"We have plenty allocated for it," Newton said, but "I don't believe we're going to have to touch (that money)."

The Legion facility is well-equipped to host large dinners, with a large kitchen and plenty of seating. For years, the club has been hosting breakfasts every other weekend and is able to serve 125 people.

"We should have a good turnout," Newton said. "We've pretty much pounded the pavement to get the word out."

The dinner has been in the planning stages since January or February, Newton said, and since then, they've posted flyers at welfare offices and elderly housing units in Tilton, Northfield, Franklin and Sanbornton. They've also talked to welfare officers to ensure that the needy people coming into the office are told about the dinner.

Doors to the club will be open from noon to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 26.

Newton said the relatively early dinner was timed so that volunteers can serve and clean up, then "go their merry way" to spend Thanksgiving with their own families. But more importantly, the club wants to spread their good fortunes to others.

"Everything we do, we do it for the community," Newton said.

Leftover food will be donated to local food pantries.

After this event, the auxiliary will turn its focus to Christmas charity work, with the annual grocery-shopping spree planned for Dec. 5. People who buy raffle tickets are entered into a drawing to win a three-minute shopping spree, worth up to $500, at Shaw's in Tilton. The money earned through the raffle goes toward outfitting a child from each school in the Winnisquam School District with winter gear, as well as to 10 of the children who have stars on Northway Bank's holiday tree.

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