Eighty-five-year-old Dottie Bennett, of Waterville, sat patiently Thursday in a walker-turned-wheelchair near the door at Messalonskee High School. Bennett was waiting for a ride home after having Thanksgiving dinner with about 1,000 of her closest friends.

The dinner, complete with turkey, squash, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots and lots of homemade pies for dessert is served every year in the school cafeteria.

“I already ate. It was great,” Bennett said, as one of the dinner’s founders, Mike Marston, 62, of Oakland, came by to offer her a lift. “I have everything to be thankful for, my age. I have a lot of arthritis, but other than that I’m in fairly good health.”

Marston began looking for just the right vehicle so Bennett could ride home comfortably.

“We’re doing like everybody else — just trying to make things a little bit better for people on Thanksgiving and be thankful for what we have,” Marston said. “I’m thankful for living in such a great community, surrounded by wonderful people like this who come out and give to others on Thanksgiving, especially the young people volunteering.”

At Messalonskee, at the Skowhegan Recreation Center and other locations across the state, people gathered to sit with people they didn’t even know, just to have the fellowship of a good meal on a day set aside for such things. Volunteers from area service clubs such as the Lions Club, from local schools and businesses, including the New Balance factories in Skowhegan and Norridgewock, helped serve dinners and pies and generally show warm holiday spirit.


Nicole Nolton, 62, of Fairfield, said the Messalonskee Thanksgiving Day meal was just right for her and a couple of friends who live in her building, for whom she was taking dinners back in covered paper plates.

“It’s really made my day because I don’t have any family,” she said. “My mom, dad, aunts, uncles and cousins and everything’s gone. I would have sat home and spent time alone. I’m thankful for just life in general, just to be here for the friends that I do have.”

Over at the rec center in Skowhegan, Stephen McDaniel, the center’s maintenance supervisor, said they served about 100 meals last year and imagined there would be more than that Thursday, the sixth year the town has been providing Thanksgiving Day meals under the direction of Denise LeBlanc.

Inside the recreation center, the lights were low and live Celtic flute music by Debbie Leschinski filled the air, along with the aroma of turkey dinners being served.

Kelly Garland, one of nine volunteers from New Balance, said she was part of the production line scooping up turkey, mashed potatoes, boiled onions and cheese au gratin vegetables.

“We do it because it’s a great cause,” said Garland, of Norridgewock. “They need help to feed the people who don’t have families to go to.”


Rhonda Lancaster, 60, and her son Shane Hoskins, 29, of Skowhegan, said they appreciated the good meal and were thankful.

“I love it,” Lancaster said after being offered gravy and cranberry sauce to go with her turkey and stuffing.

Her son said the meal was wonderful and he is thankful for still having his mother, who has breast cancer.

“I thankful every day to be alive,” Lancaster said.

Chris Raiche, 25, of Skowhegan, who managed to get a drumstick from one of the 26 turkeys at the rec center on Thanksgiving, said he has a lot to be thankful for this year.

“Food, family, friends — a lot,” he said, savoring his favorite part of the holiday turkey.


Mike Perkins, another one of the founders of the Messalonskee Thanksgiving dinner, said they served about 1,200 people last year.

“Now this year, we’re going to go past that — by a lot,” he said from the bustling cafeteria where school students lined up behind the cafeteria dinner pans, ready to serve the food. “The food came from Bud King, who used to own Buddies grocery downtown. He started this 30 years ago.”

Perkins said as King got older, he, Jesse Garten and others took it over.

“He said, ‘Go out and buy what you got to do for food.’ We buy the food, cook it and prepare it and get it ready, and he pays for it,” Perkins said. “It’s quite a lot of money. We had 56 turkeys this year. It’s good Maine people coming together, having a meal together, because there’s many people out here who would be sitting at home alone.

“Now they came here and they sit and they have a meal with somebody else, and it’s a holiday you shouldn’t be home alone.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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