WINTHROP — Eric Thoreson was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in May. On Thursday, two weeks before he finishes chemotherapy, he will be dishing out Thanksgiving dinner to community members.

“It took a lot out of me,” said the member of the Rotary Club of the Winthrop Area. “Service above self; cancer isn’t going to slow me down.”

The Rotary Club is one of a number of organizations filling the Thanksgiving holiday with a heaping helping of serving and delivering dinners.

Thoreson, a culinary arts professor in the University of Maine System, said he was not able to work during treatment or taste foods normally. He said working on the event is helping him return to “normal.”

“When you’re on (chemotherapy), they are feeding you poison,” Thoreson said. “There’s been some days that I couldn’t even walk or use my hands.

“I couldn’t eat solid food for four months (and) I lost 80 pounds,” he added. “I have to be normal. I have to get my strength back.”

Thoreson said volunteering is a way for him to give back to the community that helped support him after he was diagnosed with cancer.

“There’s no reason that people should go hungry,” he said. “I wanna give back so, so bad for what they’ve done for me.”

Eric Thoreson makes an apple pie Tuesday at his Winthrop home for the Rotary Club of the Winthrop Area’s Thanksgiving dinner.

He said he anticipates putting turkeys into the oven at 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning and getting in a full morning of work before the meal to prepare squash, potatoes and gravy. Everything, except for some of the baked goods, will be made from scratch.

The Rotary Club of the Winthrop Area is hosting its event from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier Church. The church is at 130 Route 133 in Winthrop.

Winthrop Rotary President Andy West said usually 15 to 20 volunteers help at their event. Most are Rotarians, but he said some people from outside the club have contacted him about volunteering.

“It’s a tough time of year,” he said. “(Volunteering) means you give up a large part of your holiday with your family.

“The people that volunteer do it because they enjoy giving and helping,” West added “It’s pretty gratifying.”

The Augusta Valley Scottish Rite Masons will serve up meals on from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at Gardiner Area High School. The school is located at 40 West Hill Road.

Larry Perkins, one of the event’s organizers and a Mason for more than 50 years, said it has taken place annually for about 25 years.

The volunteers are expected to arrive at the Gardiner school at 6 a.m. Thursday to begin carving turkeys and preparing the final dishes for the day. The turkeys were bought last week and will be roasted by volunteers from the Readfield United Methodist Church ahead of the event, according to Perkins.

Don Pratt, another Mason and supper co-organizer, said a sense of community has sprouted from the Gardiner event. He said a lot of the same people return for the event year after year and look forward to seeing familiar faces.

“We will see about 200 people,” he said. “People come from all the surrounding communities.”

Pratt said about 60 people would be volunteering, but more are always welcome.

“We never turn away volunteers,” he said. “Even if we’ve got everything done, it gives them a chance to come in and look forward to (volunteering) next year.”

Perkins said everyone who attends the event walks out “grateful” for something, be it the meal or the volunteer experience.

“The ones that are working just think it’s a wonderful experience of volunteerism,” he said. “The ones that receive are grateful to have (the meal).”

Eric Thoreson makes an apple pie Tuesday at his Winthrop home for the Rotary Club of the Winthrop Area’s Thanksgiving dinner.

For delivery options for the Gardiner event, call Kevin Campbell at 504-3073. For the Winthrop event, call the Rotary Club at 377-7228.

If you’re interested in volunteering at the Gardiner event, Perkins can be reached a 685-3325.

Perkins said the Scottish Rite Masons will hold a similar event in Farmington at Mt. Blue High School.

The Richmond Grange, at 15 Alexander Reed Road, will have a “framily” — friends and family — Thanksgiving meal starting around 1 p.m. Organizer Marilyn Stinson said the Grange offers no internet access, seeking to foster person-to-person communication. Visitors are encouraged to stay after the meal to help decorate the organization’s Christmas tree.

Stinson said to-go boxes will be available if people would like to deliver meals to those who cannot make it.

Another event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Le Club Calumet at 334 West River Road in Augusta. Transportation to the event is being handled by the Bread of Life.

“We are anticipating a huge turnout,” club President Lisa Newell said. “We have a seat for all.”

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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