By Mary Spicer
If you’re seeking the kind of Thanksgiving dinner your grandmother used to make — or that you always dreamed someone would — Bill Foster has just the feast for you.
Forget the over-the-hills and through-the-woods stuff; in fact, you need not look farther than 378 Chestnut St. in the heart of downtown Meadville on Thanksgiving Day, which falls on Nov. 28 this year. For the GPS-impaired, your destination is around the midpoint of the block between Diamond Park and Liberty Street.
Although signs in front of the building read “The Family & Community Christian Association,” the smells that greet every opening of the front door are straight from granny’s kitchen. That’s because Foster doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to his heartfelt belief that holiday dining should never, ever, ever have to be a solo experience. Surrounded by an all-volunteer crew of dedicated believers in the same cause, he brings the concept of family dining to a whole new level.
For starters, Foster has expanded his definition of “family” to include the entire community. Everyone is invited to join in and no one is presented with a bill on the way out; the event is free and open to everyone. Donations are gratefully accepted but not required — or even requested.
Although 400 to 500 folks are served each year, Foster fondly compares the feast to meals his grandmother used to make. “Nothing comes out of boxes,” he says. “It’s all homemade.”
In addition to turkey, the menu includes stuffing; mashed potatoes; sweet potatoes; a selection of vegetables including, of course, green bean casseroles; cranberry sauce; and lots of homemade desserts.
Plans call for the roasting of between 26 and 28 turkeys. After almost — not quite, but almost — being caught short with only(!) 22 turkeys last year, Foster’s making sure that there’s going to be plenty to go around. “Everyone always gets something to eat, but I like to have something for them to take home, too,” he said.
Nov. 28 will mark Foster’s 37th annual Thanksgiving dinner for the greater Meadville community. However, the organizer himself has even more than usual to be thankful for this time around.
In 2012, right after the annual Christmas dinner he also organizes, Foster suffered a heart attack. Open-heart surgery followed, but, as he explained to the Tribune during a recent interview, “I’m back at it again.”
The feasting begins at noon and lasts as long as the food holds out. While more than two dozen turkeys may sound like a lot, arriving early is a very, very good idea.
Home deliveries are also available, thanks to a squadron of volunteers willing to travel throughout Crawford County. The deadline for requesting deliveries is Nov. 25. Please call the FCCA office at 337-4279 to make the necessary arrangements.
Anyone interested in serving as a volunteer in any capacity should call the same number to let them know you’re planning to help.
It takes a community ...
Nov. 27 has been set as the deadline for delivering pies, desserts or prepared side dishes to FCCA during normal business hours. Cash donations are also joyously accepted.
This doesn’t happen without a lot of support from the local community. Ditto for the annual Christmas dinner in the same location that Foster also organizes.
For example, a number of turkeys Foster can only describe as “a lot” are being donated by long-time supporter Bill Malady of Malady’s Meat Market. John Michaels from Valenza Restaurant also donates lots of, well stuff, from which to make stuffing — and then comes in to help put it together just right, too. H&H Groceries in Saegertown has a proud spot on the long-time contributor list. For the last four or five years, long-time volunteer Dan Bazylak, who also happens to work for Nutrition Inc., has also been helping out with canned goods, which are purchased in very large cans for speedy preparation. Ainsworth Pet Nutrition is on board this year to donate turkeys.
“I think the recession is over,” Foster said. “People are more generous now than they have been in the last few years.”
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can help
Delivery requests, donations and volunteers are all welcome as the day approaches for the annual Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Family & Community Christian Association. The dinner, which is free and open to the public, begins at noon on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28.
Full-course dinners will be delivered throughout Crawford County, but reservations must be made calling 337-4279 no later than Nov. 25.
Anyone interested in volunteering should call the same number.