Volunteer Fran Greenleaf, left, pours gravy over a Thanksgiving meal in 2020 during the annual Messalonskee Community Dinner at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Last year the dinner to be changed to pickup and delivery only because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this year the sit-down dinner option is returning. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

OAKLAND — The annual free community Thanksgiving dinner, held since 1990 at Messalonskee High School, had to be changed last year to pickup and delivery only because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this year, Mike Marston and others are bringing back the sit-down dinner option.

“We have a lot to be thankful for,” said Marston. “This is a way to share it.”

Marston said Tuesday that he feels good about returning to the sit-down meals. “It’s nice for people who are alone to be able to eat with others,” he said.

The dinner will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday with both dine-in and delivery options. The volunteers serving the food will be masked and he said they will be taking every precaution they can while asking attendees to mask as they enter and exit the building.

Marston said they will be providing enough food to serve around 1,000 meals to members of the community. The free dinner includes turkey, squash, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, peas, carrots, onions, cranberry sauce, rolls and pies.

“We have many volunteers that come back year after year,” Marston said.

There are roughly 100 volunteers who help with donations, prepping, serving and delivering meals. Marston said Girl Scouts from Fairfield, Sidney and Vassalboro baked 143 pies for the event.

The annual community dinner was started by Edward “Bud” King, his family and Marston. King died in September 2020 at the age of 97. King’s daughter Dru Aslam, her husband Sunny, and their children have continued to keep the tradition going along with Marston.

Jessica Garten and Mike Perkins help Marston with the organizing of the event, but Perkins is currently in the hospital with COVID-19. Perkins hopes to be home by Thanksgiving. Garten has overseen the kitchen for the last 16 years.

“My oldest son Brock pretty much runs that kitchen,” Garten said, adding that they were cooking nearly 50 turkeys. “We’re carrying on Bud King’s mission, even though he’s gone.”

Those who wish to request delivery can call 207-465-5521.

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