Feeding your stomach and our community's soul

Community Thanksgiving Dinner will be held Nov. 24 at Brattleboro Union High School.  

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BRATTLEBORO — Community Thanksgiving is coming back this year, with a new time and place.

“It’s really important for the community,” said Jaci Reynolds, one of the organizers. “I think it’s going to go well. I think there’s a lot of interest in helping us.”

Organizers are planning to have four seating times at Brattleboro Union High School the day before Thanksgiving: 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. An online registration form and other information can be found on a Facebook event page called “Community Thanksgiving.”

The plan is to register 150 people per time slot and leave 50 open slots for anyone who doesn’t sign up ahead of time. Takeout dinners also will be available and deliveries will be made.

Reynolds, who serves on the Windham Southeast School District Board and owns The Pit Mistress BBQ, always wanted to get involved with the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner. She helped with similar events when she lived and worked in the Boston area.

When Reynolds found out via Facebook that no one was planning to do the annual event this year in Brattleboro, she and Brandie Starr stepped up. Reynolds said the thought of not having it again for a second year was “really upsetting.”

“I know that times are hard but I feel like it’s more important,” Reynolds said. “Brandie agreed.”

Last year, due to safety reasons related to COVID-19, takeout meals were made available via the Everyone Eats program but a community gathering did not occur.

Reynolds said Steve Perrin, BUHS principal, and Ali West, food service director, were immediately on board to host a dinner at the high school. After their meeting, things “snowballed in a very positive way” with the community getting involved, Reynolds said.

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“We are glad to step up and provide a site for this Thanksgiving tradition,” Perrin said. “The energy and commitment of the organizers to provide a high quality holiday meal is inspiring.”

With lots of seating and a commercial kitchen, Reynolds called the school “the perfect venue.” Perrin noted Reynolds and West “both have deep culinary experience.”

“We’re looking forward to hosting and I hope everyone takes full advantage of this opportunity,” Perrin said.

Since 1972, the dinner was held Thanksgiving day in different downtown locations. This time around, Reynolds said West advised that it might be more difficult to get volunteers for that day.

Retreat Farm will help distribute money raised for the effort. Staff from Vermont Foodbank, Foodworks, United Way of Windham County also have been volunteering.

Reynolds said Cafe Services, West’s employer, is the biggest financial sponsor so far.

“In conjunction with BUHS, they’re agreeing to use the facility,” Reynolds said, and items will be ordered from the group’s supplier as well.

Organizers will be seeking donations of food from local farms. Needed are onions, potatoes, squash, celery and greens or “whatever people have handy,” Reynolds said.

Financial contributions also are being sought.