AUGUSTA — Heidi Bowden took on the monumental task of organizing Thanksgiving dinner for more than 360 people for one simple reason.

“It’s a good opportunity for me to pay it forward,” she said Wednesday as she surveyed two long tables full of raw potatoes and squash, boxes of stuffing, butter, mixed nuts, cranberry sauce, crackers and other mainstays of the traditional meal.

What’s missing?

The 19 turkeys that will be ready to go by meal time.

Bowden, 51, of Augusta, is a member of the Green Street United Methodist Church, which has been hosting a Thanksgiving meal for more than 30 years.

She expects her 70-plus volunteers to deliver 165 meals and to serve 200-250 people starting at 11 a.m. today at the church.

It’s one of four local free meals, with other groups prepared to serve in Gardiner, Winthrop and Readfield.

Bowden said it’s the first time she’s worked on the dinner, and that she responded to a call from the church when it was looking for a leader.

The church was there for her when she needed help with her autistic daughter, so she felt it was a good way for her to give back to those who gave her so much support in her time of need.

“You try to make it as homey as you can,” she said. “I’ve had to turn away countless volunteers.”

Susan Cover — 621-5643
scover@mainetoday.com