AUGUSTA — Right as the clock struck 11 a.m., people made their way into Le Club Calumet to feast on a free Thanksgiving meal.

By 11:30 a.m. Thursday, three of the club’s long tables, holding around 20 people each, were full with attendees feasting on turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and all of the regular Thanksgiving fixings.

For many of the attendees, the club’s meal was an opportunity to eat their Thanksgiving dinner with others and avoid the challenging task of cooking an 18-pound turkey. But for the volunteers — many who started preparing the meal on Tuesday and arrived as early as 7 a.m. Thursday to help put the meal together — choosing to help with the meal was an opportunity to give back to their community.

Liz Patenaude cuts a lemon meringue pie Thursday ahead of the community Thanksgiving meal at Le Club Calumet in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It’s become a tradition for my boyfriend and I,” said Cheryl Dougal, a volunteer and member of the club. Her boyfriend, Paul Giguere, said they decided to spend their past couple Thanksgivings volunteering at the club as a way to fulfil their “desire to help.”

“As Mr. Rogers always said, ‘look for the helpers,'” Giguere added.

And the volunteers have the same idea, all in agreement that their reason to donate time to prepare the dinner is to give back to the community — most volunteers opted to spend the entire day and holiday with their “family” at Le Club Calumet.


The volunteers run the dinner, preparing the turkeys since Tuesday and arriving early on Thursday to start making the mashed potatoes and the other fixings.

It’s one of many Thanksgiving dinners in the area that provides free meals to people in the community. This is the seventh year the club has run the dinner.

Tammy Gagne and Liz Patenaude were in charge of the pies, which some would argue, are the most important part of the Thanksgiving dinner.

As a member of the club since she was a little girl, Gagne now attends events with her husband and volunteered for the dinner since her adult children are living in Florida. The event preparation is a way for her to get together with her friends and her newfound family within the club.

“I’ve always wanted to help (with the Thanksgiving dinner), my family is in Florida and this is my time to do it,” Gagne said of her decision to volunteer.

Patenaude channeled her background as a pastry chef as she prepared the many varieties of pies and called it “fun” to be able to get back to her cooking roots.


“It’s fun, we drag friends in,” Patenaude said. “There are a lot of great people that come in.”

Liz Patenaude cuts a chocolate cream pie Thursday before the community Thanksgiving meal at Le Club Calumet in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In all, nearly 50 people volunteered to run the event, and around 400 people were expected to attend the Thanksgiving meal.

Mike Bechard, president of Le Club Calumet, said the volunteers are so dedicated that they do not need to sign people up for the tasks, everyone just shows up.

And, the 26 turkeys were donated by community members.

“We always want to do something to give back to the community,” Bechard said.

Community members poured in and took to their plates right at 11 a.m.


Don and Jeanne Bilodeau decided to join the dinner last week as a way to get out of cooking.

“We got lazy and didn’t cook so we thought we would do something different,” said Don Bilodeau.

Jeanne Bilodeau pitched in and said, “We don’t have to clean! Or shop!”

As of Thursday morning, the club expected around 400 people to attend the dinner and though the dinner is free, donations are optional and will go to the Bread of Life Ministries in Augusta. The club donated around $3,000 last year, Bechard said, and the club plans to present this year’s check on Dec. 15 at the club’s Friday Night Supper.

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