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Southern Ulster TimesSt. Augustine hosts annual Thanksgiving feast

St. Augustine hosts annual Thanksgiving feast

On Thanksgiving Day St. Augustine opened its gymnasium and laid out a feast for the Highland community, something they have done for the past five years. Through donations and the hard work of a dedicated group of volunteers, the scrumptious meal brought together a large gathering of people who shared the gift of friendship and gratitude on a beautiful sunny fall afternoon.

Rev. John W. Lynch said the volunteers spend months preparing for the dinner.

“They all took a role and were happy to do it. There was lots of cooperation and no drama – smooth, happy and eager to reach out. Their hearts were in it,” Fr. Lynch said. “This dinner is for everybody in the community, not for just one faith, not for one economic level, but for everybody no matter what your need may be, everybody is welcome.”

Fr. Lynch said the Lloyd Police assisted in bringing people to the dinner and also delivered Thanksgiving dinners “as hot as they can possibly manage” to those at home who could not come to the dinner. In addition, St. Augustine also has a “very busy food pantry and hundreds of people are served, not just today but throughout the year.” They are open on the 1st and 3rd Saturday mornings.

Rich Gorres, the Director of the dinner, said they start the planning in September.

“Every year it grows a little more,” he said. “This year I didn’t expect to have food to give out to people but now the Town of Lloyd Police decided to donate to us [54 boxes] to give out to people when they came to dinner.” He said they have expanded their pick-ups and deliveries to a ten-mile radius and expects they will need more volunteers in the future.

Gorres said the religious education program at St. Augustine developed a “sock program” as a way to teach kids the importance of giving “and how to grow up to be responsible adults.” Each large white sock was filled with soap, toiletry items and candy and was handed out to everyone who came to the dinner.

“It’s a small gift and even if it’s something small people just know when you’re thinking about them,” he said. “This is the fifth year and every year it gets bigger and better.”

Gorres said every year he somehow receives the necessary support.

“The good Lord gives me all the help I need and the people to do it,” he said.

Mark Schmitt has been the chef for the dinner from the beginning.

“It’s a great group of people and the chef can’t do anything without the support of all these other folks who get the donations and advertise the event,” he said.

Schmitt cooked 15 turkeys and received ham and potatoes that were donated by Mark Elia and the Highland Diner.

“It’s a community effort,” he said. “and we make everything from scratch.”

By Mark Reynolds

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