WATERVILLE — Though the pandemic has changed the way that the community can gather and celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, organizers at the Alfond Youth & Community Center have worked to ensure that hot meals are still available to those who need them.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the center for the second year in a row has hosted its annual Thanksgiving dinner as a drive-thru, individually packaging 1,500 Thanksgiving dinners in lieu of a sit-down meal.

For Shawn Forkey, kitchen manager at the center, the day began at 6 a.m., when he arrived to the center to begin preparing food and getting things in order before the arrival of volunteers around 8 a.m.

“We take pride and joy in everything we do, especially this, being our biggest event,” Forkey said. “We feed kids every day in the community, and to be able to help families and community members by offering a free meal of this magnitude, especially during the pandemic — it’s nice to see everyone come out and come together.”

The Thanksgiving dinner tradition began at the Waterville Boy’s Club in 1924, Forkey said, and in 2021 is slated to serve 1,500 free meals to community members. Vehicles began lining up along North Street well before the noontime entry, with over 300 meal tickets reserved beforehand.

“It doesn’t matter what your status is, what your background is, what type of car you drive, or what your need is,” Forkey said. “Anyone can come get a meal, no questions asked.”


Each meal contained classic Thanksgiving fixings — turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, homemade cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

Forkey said that the event has continued to grow in interest each year; when he began organizing the Thanksgiving dinner in 2019, the sit-down meal served 750. Now, two years later, the event will feed double what it did when he started.

The decision to prepare 1,500 meals for this year’s event was made after organizers last year ran out of meals within an hour of the event starting; Forkey said that they had to turn people away, with dozens of cars lined up North Street, nearly to Colby College.

Donna Adams, center facing, hands Thanksgiving dinners to Shawn Forkey as he delivers them to a waiting vehicle Saturday at the Alfond Youth & Community Center on North Street in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Among those picking up meals Saturday was Kathy Fleury of Winslow who was bringing her father, Emerson, 89, to the center to get a meal as part of their “dad’s day” tradition. The two began the celebration earlier in the morning at The Elm for the Festival of Trees event.

“It’s dad’s day; he’s 89 years old and he will be 90 on Dec. 18, so I take him out every once in a while for a dad adventure,” Fleury said. “I think it’s fabulous what they’re doing here because he’s by himself, and he would obviously enjoy a great dinner.”

Directing vehicles at the front of the line was volunteer Chelsea Maddox, who kept a tally of vehicles lining up prior and directed vehicles when the line started moving.

“The (Alfond Youth & Community Center) provides great community opportunities like this, and I’m glad people are getting involved and getting into it,” Maddox said. “It feels good to help out, and there’s a great sense of community and support here.”

By noontime, Forkey and Donna Adams, co-coordinator for the event and child care programs coordinator at the center, made their way out of the kitchen and outside to load meals into vehicles, with other volunteers continuing to box meals in an assembly-line fashion.

“I think doing this is huge,” Forkey said. “This brings a sense of normalcy for some of these people. For some, this is the only Thanksgiving meal they’re going to have.”

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