MASSENA — A decline in the number of volunteers has led to the cancellation of the annual St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Thanksgiving meal in Massena.
The free Thanksgiving dinner has been staple in the community since the late 1990s. The annual feast in the VFW Post 1143 dining room in Massena has been open to anyone, whether they’re a single person who didn’t want to cook a meal or dine alone, or families that wanted to enjoy a festive Thanksgiving meal without the dishes to wash afterward.
But its longevity has relied on a volunteer base that’s dwindling. The individuals coordinated the meal, assisted in its preparation and helped out on Thanksgiving Day.
For instance, the Kirkey family has spent several years preparing the meal, answering the phone for take-out calls and assisting in the kitchen. Thirty-eight turkeys were among the items prepared for last year’s dinner.
Students in the Massena Central High School National Honor Society and French National Honor Society and their advisers have spent the day before Thanksgiving getting desserts and rolls ready for takeout, setting up the tables and peeling potatoes.
Last year, Family and Consumer Sciences students at J.W. Leary Junior High School helped with preparing the turkeys and baking pies.
On Thanksgiving Day, some volunteers helped serve meals at the VFW while others delivered meals around the Massena community after other volunteers had taken orders over the phone. Those who needed a ride could also call the VFW to arrange transportation.
And it wasn’t over on Thanksgiving Day. More volunteers stepped forward to assist with cleaning up the day after Thanksgiving.
Donations have also played a role in the dinner’s success. In 2018, Walmart and others made donations to help finance the dinner, members of St. Peter’s Parish donated turkeys and desserts, North Raquette Greener donated potatoes, and the VFW allowed the use of its facilities to cook and serve the meal.
The number of individuals and families who enjoy the dinner has increased steadily over the years. A record was set last year, with 492 people enjoying sit-down, delivery and takeout meals during the three hours of operation. If any food has been left, and it wasn’t last year, it has been donated to efforts like the Massena Meals on Wheels and the free Thursday community dinners at the First United Methodist Church.