AUGUSTA — It was a snowy Christmas around central Maine, with heavy gusts of wind ensuring minimal visibility for drivers most of the day.

Still, the whiteout conditions didn’t stop many area residents from helping ensure that others could enjoy a safe, happy holiday, whether by helping at a community dinner, standing by to help others in the event of emergencies, or meeting other needs that don’t go away on the holidays.

At Emmanuel Lutheran Episcopal Church on Eastern Avenue — formerly known as Prince of Peace Lutheran Church — a crew of volunteers prepared turkey dinners for more than 250 people, then sent a large portion of the meals out with drivers, who braved the blizzard conditions to ensure they would be delivered.

On Leighton Road, Saray Buck — fresh off a 12-hour rotation as a nurse at the Togus campus of the VA Maine Healthcare System — cooked a full Christmas dinner for the dozen or so Augusta firefighters who worked the holiday shift and gathered at the new station in the north part of the city.

“I want to give it up for Saray,” Battalion Chief Scott Dunbar said toward the end of the meal, which included turkey, ham, stuffing, vegetables and baked desserts, most of which Buck prepared late last week.

The gathered firefighters, along with some of their spouses and children, gave her a round of applause.

“I’m glad everyone lived through it,” responded Buck, whose husband, Mike, also is a firefighter.

It was a relatively quiet morning for the firefighters, who responded to a fire alarm and several medical calls, but no crashes — despite snow that made driving dangerous around much of Maine.

Among the diners was 3-year-old Sutton McKinnon, whose father, Jason, also is a firefighter. She entertained the firefighters with a story about the bunk bed that Santa Claus had managed to fit down her chimney the day before.

Over at Emmanuel Lutheran Episcopal Church, volunteer Bob Stratton, of Manchester, came with his wife, Cathy; their children; and several friends.

Stratton, who helped serve meals Monday, has volunteered at the annual dinner several times in the past. The turnout at the church seemed lower this year, he said, because of the poor driving conditions. But he gave credit to the organizers of the event and the delivery drivers.

The event was organized by the church and the Augusta Warming Center. Music played as the diners, after brushing the snow off their coats, enjoyed the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, pie and hot drinks that were being served.

“There’s a crew here at this church that really does the heavy lifting,” Stratton said. “We only came by to help out. The regulars are the ones doing the real work. We have just been working in the kitchen and serving meals and shoveling the walkway; what they need for help. … We’re every bit as thankful that they’ve given us a chance to help them. It’s really nice to be able to help out and just remember it’s a good time to do for other people.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


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