In 1621 – it is said – pilgrims and Native Americans gathered together to celebrate the first harvest in newly-settled Plymouth. Regardless of religious beliefs, heritage, or current way of life, they enjoyed a bountiful meal in each other’s company and gave thanks for the blessings of the season.
It is in this spirit of camaraderie that millions of Americans gather together each November to count their blessings and share what has become a traditional meal of turkey (or tofurkey), stuffing, mashed potatoes, and so on, capped off with a piece (or two!) of seasonal pumpkin pie or other much-looked-forward-to dessert.
For nearly twenty years, Newton Falls residents and visitors from surrounding communities have had the opportunity to feel this spirit of the season in extra doses as members from the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church Outreach program have continually teamed up with the American Legion Post 236 to provide a free turkey dinner with all the fixings.
Regardless of religious beliefs, political views, or individual circumstances, everyone was welcome on Thanksgiving Day to pull up a chair and enjoy an early Turkey Day treat, leaving plenty of time to spend the rest of the afternoon napping or making the rounds with family and friends.
Coordinated by Reverend Deacon Edward Brisbine (affectionately known as Deacon Ed) and Father Kenneth Bachofsky, St. Nicholas’s ordained clergy, the free dinner does more than just provide a hot, homemade meal to those in the community. “It’s not just about the food,” Deacon Ed and his wife, Kerya, agreed. “It provides fellowship, too.”
The event began several years ago when church members recognized that many people in the area lived alone and did not necessarily have family nearby to visit for the holiday. The free dinner gives them an opportunity to come out and spend some time on Thanksgiving fellowshipping with others in the community while enjoying the freshly prepared turkey. Outreach volunteers donate the ingredients and the American Legion lends its dining space and kitchen for the annual event. Anyone is welcome to pitch in and help, and church members, community residents and city officials joined in to prepare the dishes, set the tables, and serve the meals during the hour-long affair. One of the really great aspects about the outreach events is indeed that sense of togetherness whether in the kitchen plating stuffing or conversing around the dining table. Anyone willing to help out is welcomed with open arms and readily handed an apron, a spatula, or a carving knife. And if volunteers don’t necessarily know what they’re doing but are willing to learn, there is no shortage of those willing to teach. Despite the amount of tasks needing to be done, the operation runs smoothly. As for the recipe to their success? “No one is really ‘the boss’,” Kerya pointed out. “Everyone just pitches in and does what needs to be done.”
St. Nicholas parish is located in Warren, but their outreach program truly knows no boundaries. In addition to the Thanksgiving meal, they host a monthly dinner in Windham, team up with area groups to provide school supplies for local children, send needed medical supplies to countries like Belarus all the way across the ocean, and organize several other events throughout the year including an angel-giving program for the quickly-approaching Christmas season. It is fitting that the church’s namesake and patron saint, Saint Nicholas, is the original Santa Claus – he continues to inspire giving and helping others, especially through the hands of countless volunteers whether through the church or anywhere around the world.
For a brief history of this patron saint or more information about the Outreach and upcoming events, visit http://www.stnicholaswarren.org or call (330) 372-6240.