Whether hunkering down with family and friends at home or traveling to the ends of the earth to reunite, Thanksgiving is the day to share our thankfulness over a bountiful meal.
However, there are those whose situation makes it possible to participate in our national day of thanks.
For the sixth time, volunteers at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Barrington are setting the Thanksgiving table for 150 people, extending an invitation to those who might spend the day like any other.
Fifty cadets from Naval Station Great Lakes, dozens of residents of Maryville Academy and other folks who need a place to enjoy the afternoon, are expected for dinner. Volunteers also will deliver 30 meals to police and firehouses and the elderly. Walk-ins also are welcome.
Nancy Holmes and Catherine Koelling, co-coordinator of the event, along with dozens of volunteers will prepare the traditional Thanksgiving menu: turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, vegetables and pie-in the traditional way.
Koelling previously held the event at her now-defunct restaurant, The Greenery.
By Thanksgiving morning, 20 turkeys will have been roasted at homes and delivered to the church, by volunteers. Then, much like homes all over the country, the additional preparations will commence.
“We’ll have our volunteers come in at 8 a.m., they’ll come into the kitchen and start chopping and peeling and slicing and dicing,” said Holmes. “We have made from scratch potatoes and vegetables and cranberries, and we have over 45 pies donated.”
“At 9 a.m. our table setters come, and we do white linen cloth napkins, decorations on the tables, candles,” Holmes continued. “There will be 23 or 24 tables, maybe more, and it looks like a beautiful restaurant when we’re done.”
Members of the community who hope to extend the family table beyond their own platters and carving knives donated every touch of home. According to Koelling, Tony Stallone, vice president of Peapod, the home-delivery grocery service, donate the majority of food.
“He has been incredibly generous since it’s been at St. Michael’s. We would not be able to do this without their support,” she said.
A Eucharist service will be held at 10:30 a.m. and then another generous donation will be used.
“The Barrington Bus Company gave us the bus and the driver,” said Koelling. “They go up to Great Lakes and pick up 50 recruits.”
The dinner is set to begin at noon and last until everyone pushes away from the table. The afternoon doesn’t end as the pie is finished, however.
Premium Blend, a girls’ a cappella group from Barrington High School, will perform, and karaoke will be available.
A thoroughly modern form of entertainment also will be available — the church is providing laptops and cellphones for the use of the guests.
“We set up, mostly for the recruits, because they’ve been gone for eight weeks in boot camp, laptops and cellphones, so they can call home, check their emails and Facebook, which they haven’t been able to do for a couple months,” said Holmes.
At about 5 p.m., the event is set to be complete, the guests dispersed, and all will no doubt remember another lovely Thanksgiving.
“It just shows how much people are thankful and willing to donate or lend financial support or their holiday,” Koelling said. “People are willing to give to people. I think it’s a wonderful tradition.”