AUGUSTA — Alex Krechkin pulled up to the Green Street United Methodist Church on Thursday and left the door of his pickup truck open so he could hear the story and choruses to “Alice’s Restaurant” as he crossed the parking lot to pick up his Thanksgiving dinner.

“I don’t want to miss it,” Krechkin said.

Krechkin, like dozens of central Maine residents, turned to the Augusta church for Thanksgiving dinner in a year when so many celebrations have been reshaped, changed or canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even the annual church event, a tradition for 43 years, changed this year. Instead of welcoming the public in to the church’s fellowship hall for a hot turkey dinner with the all the fixings and homemade pie, public health restrictions meant that meals would be available only for delivery or pickup between noon and 1 p.m.

No one was expecting people would be lining up at 10:30 a.m., waiting in their cars in the cold drizzle for distribution to begin. An hour later, people were waiting for more meals to be transferred up on rolling carts from fellowship hall to the lobby entrance.

Tammy Roberts, who came from her home to Randolph to pitch in, waited to oversee the distribution and to let people know the yellow bags contained turkey legs.

Wendy Wells picks up a dinner Thursday at the Green Street United Methodist Church in Augusta. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

Wendy Wells stopped by to grab her Thanksgiving dinner. For the first time in 40 years, she did not travel to her sister’s house for the holiday. Her sister’s home near Cooperstown, New York, is the hub for the family. Wells’ parents and brother make the trek from Ohio, and her other sister joins them from Massachusetts.

“I bought a turkey, but my friend was like, ‘Do you really want to cook for just you?'” said Wells, who lives in Hallowell. “I thought about it, but no. This is a new thing for me.”

The distance did not mean her family members did not see one another. They organized a Zoom meeting for later in the afternoon, and texted photographs of the goodies on which they had been snacking.

Terri Williamson, a member of the Green Street United Methodist Church, opted to cruise by and pick up a meal, rather than spend the day with others.

“I was too afraid to go with my bubble down to the rest of their family down in Windham,” Williamson said. “They have a 7-year-old who is in dance class and goes to school and after-care.”

She did make an apple pie to send along, minus a piece she kept for herself for after her dinner.

Organizer Sandra Grady said the effort to make and serve 118 dinners was a collaboration. Members of the Green Street Church cooked turkeys and side dishes, and members of the Randolph United Methodist Church cooked turkeys, mashed potatoes, gravy and pies.

The Augusta Food Bank also donated food, including sausage for the stuffing.

“I think we’re just gonna crash,” Grady said from her house in Jefferson after the cleanup at the white clapboard church was completed. “We took home some turkey and stuffing and made a meal of it. Now, we’re just going to sit down and put our feet up.”

This year her church’s event earned more publicity than usual because it was one of the few annual dinners across central Maine that was not canceled.

Grady said with all the public health restrictions and social distancing requirements, she was not certain the event could go one. Likewise, the volunteers had doubts about taking part.

There were moments when the fellowship hall was crowded with volunteers who were collecting 47 meals for delivery, but they did not last long. And with some careful planning and assigned jobs, they pulled it off.

“I learned a lot about myself,” Grady said. “I learned I can do this, even in a pandemic.”

For Krechkin, who lives in Augusta, bringing home the dinner meant he would get a hot meal on a cold day that he did not have to cook himself — and a piece of homemade pie.

“Right now, I live alone,” he said. “I’m married, but my wife is living with our daughter. She’s working from home, but in my daughter’s home. She’s got the all printers and the receivers and the Wi-Fi and all that stuff.”

With one ear on the song playing from his truck radio, Krechkin said he has cancer and recent times have been tough.

Even the transitory nature of picking up a meal allowed for a few minutes of fellowship and gratitude for Krechkin.

“I did a donation. It’s not much, but at least it helps to pay for the basic food, not the time cooking and preparing and cleaning, which is intensive,” he said. “This is terrific for me, because I’m not alone today. I’ve got you folks.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.