GARDINER — In his 10th year of running the community Thanksgiving lunch here, Larry Perkins is looking for his own replacement.

He’s not going away for good, however. Since a health scare and hospital stay kept him from the meal in 2011, he has handed off some of the coordination to others, but he plans to keep volunteering.

“At my age and what I’ve been through medically three years ago, I didn’t want to see this thing die,” said Perkins, 72, of Readfield. “I wanted to get somebody in to help.”

The Gardiner meal has been run by the Scottish Rite Masons of Augusta Valley, of which Perkins is a member, for more than 20 years. On Thursday, organizers expected to serve as many as 400 people Thursday at Gardiner Area High School or by home delivery.

Elsewhere in the area, The Red Barn, an Augusta restaurant, and the Litchfield Sportsmen’s Club also held community lunches.

In Gardiner, volunteers cooked 18 turkeys, solicited scores of pies and made the side dishes from scratch in the school kitchen. Potatoes were mashed in a commercial-grade standing mixer and bread was dried to make the stuffing – no Stove Top was in sight.

Johan Brown, of Chelsea, said it’s always good, and “it’s portioned, too” – to discourage overeating. It’s Brown’s fourth year of attending the meal in person, but the first since her husband died earlier this year. This year, she went with friends, saying she’d stop at her son’s house later for pie.

Of all the meals served, 250 were delivered to area homes by groups of volunteers. Many recipients didn’t have relatives around and can’t get out of the house, Perkins said.

“We get the same calls,” he said. “You know they’re shut-ins, and not only do they enjoy a meal, they enjoy a person seeing them on Thanksgiving.”

Delores Douglas, who lives on Pond Road in West Gardiner, said she and a neighbor have gotten meals delivered for four years: “We were both alone and didn’t have family in the area, so we decided to get together and get a meal,” she said.

After reading about the meal in the Kennebec Journal, Gardiner resident Brandi Barden volunteered last year “to do something good for everybody” and was back Thursday with her 10-year-old daughter, Madeline, to serve food to people eating in the high school.

“They appreciate it,” Barden said.

Perkins said his crew of volunteers is a “well-oiled machine,” and Thursday may have proved that all will be well if he stops running it. Cooking started at 6:30 a.m. in Gardiner, but Perkins couldn’t leave his home in Readfield until 9:30 a.m. because a train was stuck on the railroad tracks at a crossing near his home.

His volunteers knew what to do.

“They just started cooking,” Perkins said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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