The women stood at the large cook’s table in the kitchen of the Universalist Unitarian Church in Waterville, slathering cranberry sauce on slices of nine-grain bread and topping it with turkey, lettuce and mayonnaise.

“It’s the nice turkey that looks like Thanksgiving turkey,” Sue Morrill said.

A retired teacher, Morrill was volunteering with eight others Wednesday to make 93 thank-you bag lunches for teachers, staff and bus drivers at Waterville Senior High School.

Volunteers Kathy McKay, right, and Stephanie Kierstead spread mayonnaise while making sandwiches for delivery to Waterville teachers, bus drivers and others who have worked under demanding circumstances during the pandemic. Eight volunteers prepared the sandwiches before bagging them with other snacks while working in the basement of the Universalist Unitarian Church in Waterville on Wednesday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

She and her sister, Sally Harwood, have been heading up the special effort as a way to show appreciation for those working on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic.

The group of retired women, some of whom are church members and others friends of the church, have gotten together the past few weeks to make the lunches and deliver them to schools. After they do it for Educare Central Maine staff next week, working with Pleasant Street United Methodist Church members, they will have devised and delivered 350 lunches.

“After two years of the pandemic, everybody’s weary,” Harwood said. “The surge this winter was just heartbreaking.”

Advertisement

Harwood had invited me to the lunch-making effort, not to showcase it, but to nudge others to reach out in similar fashion.

“I’d love to see others show appreciation for frontline workers,” she said. “Just because the surge is over doesn’t mean people aren’t exhausted, weary, wondering if they’re seen. Buy a daffodil for everybody or just send a note of appreciation. It matters. It matters to be seen, when we’re all behind masks.”

Personal messages are attached to bagged lunches for delivery to Waterville teachers, bus drivers and others who are working on the frontlines during the pandemic. Eight volunteers prepared sandwiches and lunch items before bagging them up in the basement of the Universalist Unitarian Church in Waterville on Wednesday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The Unitarian Church’s board of trustees donated money to the effort, as did some church members. Hannaford supermarket also pitched in, Harwood said.

It was quiet outside on Silver Street on Wednesday where snow had fallen overnight, but the basement kitchen just off the sidewalk was abuzz with activity. Kathy McKay and Stephanie Kierstead were helping to assemble sandwiches and enjoying the chance to socialize after a long, isolating pandemic.

“It feels so good to be in this kitchen again,” McKay said.

Out in the dining area, Rachel Marsh-Sachs and Linda Seekins were placing three kinds of sandwiches as well as apples, candies and homemade cookies, brownies and bars into dozens of little paper bags that bore the words, “With appreciation for all you do for students.”

Advertisement

Edie Keller and Barbara Covey were packing the bags in boxes to be delivered to the high school. They placed colorful round cards on each bag displaying a sun and a rainbow and words such as “Merci beaucoup!” and “Teachers Rock!”

Keller knows what it means to school staff to receive such a treat. A retired, 30-plus year librarian at George J. Mitchell School, she helped deliver lunches there recently and got to see some of her old friends who were touched by the offering.

“It’s a real gift,” Keller said. “It’s not just the food — it’s somebody wants to lighten our load, you know? That’s basically what it is.”

Harwood said she hopes people will recognize health care workers, first responders and others who continue to forge on, despite the challenges.

“A nice thank you goes a long way,” she said.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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.