Jaci Reynolds, owner of Jaci's BBQ Joint in Brattleboro, prepares 140 Thanksgiving style meals for Everyone Eats on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. 

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Jaci Reynolds, owner of Jaci's BBQ Joint in Brattleboro, prepares 140 Thanksgiving style meals for Everyone Eats on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022.

BRATTLEBORO — Although no community meal is planned for Thanksgiving this year, there’s hope one will return next year.

“As far as I can tell, there is NO traditional Brattleboro Community Thanksgiving this year,” Amanda Witman, restaurant liaison and project administrator for Brattleboro Everyone Eats, wrote on the Brattleboro Facebook group page on Nov. 16. “Who wants to lead a conversation with interested folks and lay the groundwork to ensure a Brattleboro Community Thanksgiving in 2023?”

Witman invited community members to brainstorm plans for next Thanksgiving.

Last year, Jaci Reynolds and Kiera King of Brattleboro organized a meal at Brattleboro Area Middle School. However, due to high COVID-19 numbers, the dine-in option wasn’t offered. Only three people signed up to eat inside ahead of time but about 1,000 people were fed.

Reynolds said she thought about running a meal again this year in a limited capacity and King “really wanted to do it.”

“It’s certainly not a one person operation,” Reynolds said. “But to be totally honest, I ended up ghosting her.”

Reynolds said she needed to focus on her business, Jaci’s BBQ Joint, as it recently relocated to the Top of the Hill Grill property on Putney Road.

“It’s a bummer but I’m really excited about my Everyone Eats meal,” she said, getting ready to prepare turkey dinners for the program.

Reynolds she would love to run the meal again but she believes her business is going to be too busy.

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Brattleboro Everyone Eats isn’t doing a Thanksgiving meal distribution this year, Witman told the Reformer.

“Our budget is limited and we have more ongoing demand for meals than we can fulfill,” she said. “We’ve encouraged our participating restaurants to make ‘Thanksgiving themed’ meals for our regular eaters this week, but there are no additional meals available through our program this Thanksgiving.”

Everyone Eats is a statewide program providing meals to those experiencing challenges due to COVID-19 by paying restaurants to prepare the food. Hubs are set up around the state.

During the first year of COVID-19, a community meal was not organized. Since 1972, the dinner was held Thanksgiving day in different downtown locations.

Brattleboro Everyone Eats distributed 4,500 regular meals and 1,300 “generously sized Thanksgiving meals” for the holiday in 2020, Witman said.

“Eaters who picked up a regular meal on Wednesday were also offered a Thanksgiving meal for Thursday as well,” she said. “Every household who picked up meals also took home a pie or other desserts, as well as a gift bag with local products and handmade fabric masks. We tried to make it extra special because it was such a difficult year, especially because so many families were not gathering because of COVID.”

Witman said there was enough funding in 2020 for the effort and a large group of volunteers contributed, “in part because so many people were out of work and looking for opportunities to fill their time.” This week, the Brattleboro Everyone Eats will be distributing a total of 1,900 meals in Brattleboro, Putney and Newfane.

Everyone Eats: A different kind of Thanksgiving

The Brattleboro Senior Center is closed Thanksgiving day and Friday. The senior center’s in-house meal Wednesday wil be turkey “but capacity is limited to 24 seats and we are just about full,” said Cynthia Fisher, executive director of Brattleboro Senior Meals.

“It is unfortunate there is no community meal this year,” she said.