KENNEBUNK — Everything is a little different this year, but Mario Barros didn’t seem to mind on Thursday. His mission remained the same.

Barros and other volunteers with Community Harvest’s Project Pilgrim have been assembling a Thanksgiving Day feast for less fortunate friends for over a decade. But this year, he and the rest of the community had to adapt, with restrictions on gatherings and the looming threat of the coronavirus.

The event was held at St. Martha’s Roman Catholic Church in Kennebunk, where traditionally there is a sit-down meal in the church hall. But because of COVID-19, this year they had to hand out meals via curbside delivery.

“We went back and forth,” said Barros, who turns 63 on Friday. “We wanted to have the event, but the church has (social distancing) restrictions..”

So he traded the bustle of a church kitchen brimming with the smells and sounds and smiles of a community meal for the back of a refrigerated truck, where he stood bundled against the chill and the rain, passing pristinely packed platters of a picture-perfect Thanksgiving meal.

Justin Walker, of Walkers Maine Restaurant in Cape Neddick, donated his kitchen so Barros could prepare the mountain of a meal, which was complete from the side salads with dressing, to the gently splayed slices of turkey breast, to the stacks upon stacks of pie, each sealed and ready to travel, all of it fresh, he said.

“No cans were harmed in the preparation of this meal,” Barros said.

He and two others had been cooking since Monday to prepare 500 individually packaged meals for folks who have no money for food, no place to cook, or no one to be with this Thanksgiving. A dozen more volunteers set up a drive-thru system, and in 30 minutes, the group had distributed hundreds of packages of food, while respecting social distancing guidelines.

One thankful drive-thru customer was Chi Mui, 65, of Wells. Since his husband passed away three years ago, holidays have been harder.

Mui said he planned to connect with a friend over dessert, so he would not be alone, he said.

David Conway, 89, of Cape Porpoise, said it was the first year that he and his wife of 64 years didn’t make a holiday meal for Thanksgiving.

“Cooking a big meal is too much, so this is wonderful,” Conway said as a volunteer packed his food into his backseat. “It’s a gift for folks like us.”

A day earlier, a similar scene unfolded in Saco, where Thanksgiving meals were handed out at the Ferry Beach Retreat and Conference Center. The center partnered with Age Friendly Saco and volunteers from the Rotary Club of Saco Bay to prepare meals for 300 residents from Saco, Old Orchard Beach and Biddeford.


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