MOUNT VERNON — Mitzi Robinson said she started preparing for her turn to cook for the Mount Vernon Community Center’s Saturday morning cafe the Monday before, but the slightly raised eyebrow of her husband, Quimby, suggested she had, just maybe, started even sooner than that.

“I started Monday — you’ve got to plan the menu, go to the grocery store and start cooking,” she said of the multiple quiches, cakes, coffee and other home-cooked items she made.

“The smart ones make things ahead of time and freeze them,” she said. “But you can’t do that with everything.”

Diners cleaned Robinson’s food off their plates today.

She said she does it because others did the same for them when the couple retired to Mount Vernon, from New Jersey, in 2002. Quimby Robinson’s family is from the Mount Vernon area, but Mitzi was new to the area. She was welcomed nonetheless, and now she does the same for others, whether they’re local old-timers, newcomer retirees or summer folks who visiting one of the area’s lakes.

“When we retired up here, and started coming to this, the people were so good to us, I felt I should give back to my community,” Robinson said. “It’s been worthwhile, and I certainly know what’s going on in town.”

Regular attendee Don Keneagy, of Mount Vernon, confirmed there is, indeed, a good amount of gossip and discussion of town news at the gatherings.

“It’s about sociability, gossip and just saying hello,” Keneagy said. “Summer folks, if they’re new in town, they come introduce themselves. It’s open to everyone. It’s for donations, but if you don’t have it, you just eat anyway. It’s a different person (cooking) every Saturday. But it’s always good.”

Keneagy said between 30 and 50 people show up most Saturdays, more in the summer.

The community center building, perched on the shore of Minnehonk Lake, is a former Methodist church that was turned over to the town in the early 1990s. Volunteers coordinated fundraising efforts to convert it into a community center.

“Now we come here and pray the food will be ready,” joked Don Peseux, a Mount Vernon resident who said he comes to the breakfasts regularly, “because I’m hungry. And there are a lot of good friends here, a lot of good people.”

Donations collected at the cafe go to the community center, which hosts dance lessons and recitals, dinners, meetings and other community events.

Ray Berry drank coffee on a bench next to Peseux as his grandchildren, 6-year-old Micah and 3-year-old Ramona, tore around the tables with other children. Berry said five or six people share the cooking duties and, occasionally, everyone is asked bring a dish to share.

He noted the cooks not only volunteer their time to cook and serve the food, they also pay for the ingredients out of their own pockets.

Roger Wing, 83, of Vienna, reminisced with other attendees about his baseball-playing days over coffee, recalling how his time spent swinging an ax while growing up on his family’s farm in Bingham gave him a solid, accurate baseball swing which allowed him to make a regional baseball team in Waterville.

Barbara Kennedy stopped to chat with the Robinsons and others, with the ulterior motive of drumming up attendees for a local lake association meeting later this morning. She said she comes to the cafe to conduct business, but not in the traditional sense.

Her business at the cafe, aside from looking for meeting attendees, includes swapping books and catching up on local events and news with other locals, whether they’re year-round residents or summer visitors.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]