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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Dinner for Four Hundred

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BALLSTON SPA- For the 18th year, friends, family, neighbors, strangers and newcomers will gather together at the local firehouse and give thanks the best way Americans know how- over a delicious turkey dinner.


The annual Ballston Spa community dinner will take place Thursday, November 24, from noon-4 p.m. at the Union Fire Co. No. 2 firehouse on Route 50. It is free for ANYONE to attend.


This invitation comes as a relief to many, as the steady evolution of Thanksgiving from just a meal to a full-blown ordeal has made the idea of trading in turkey for Chinese takeout sound dangerously appealing.


Don’t pick up the chopsticks just yet.


Whether it is money, time, distance or a particularly sensitive smoke detector that is persuading you to forgo the Thanksgiving dinner hoopla, there is a place for you at this dinner table.


A true testimony to community, this annual dinner is orchestrated by a staggering number (over 150 so far) of volunteers who work almost around the clock, preparing, serving and hosting, from Wednesday evening until the last chair is folded back up Thursday night. 
And this year, a familiar face is behind the reigns.


Flo Bouchard, who has been volunteering at the event for all 18 years of its existence, is now its coordinator; and she couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.
“It’s my chance to really give back,” Bouchard says.


Flo and her husband, Mark, have spent Thanksgiving at the firehouse for as long as she can remember. “My daughter is 17 and she knows nothing but this.”


The transition from volunteer to coordinator has been eye-opening for Bouchard. “The overwhelming response from people who want to volunteer and give up their Thanksgiving has been incredible,” she said. “We almost have too many volunteers!”


While the days leading up to the dinner are undoubtedly when the most work takes place, planning and fundraising for the event began weeks ago.


“We sent out letters to the area churches back in October,” said Bouchard. “We accept donations during the dinner, but most of our funding comes from the churches.”


In fact, acquiring the food itself is an act of community, coming from a variety of sources including local churches, businesses and individuals. The nearly 30 turkeys that will be served were purchased by the Ballston Spa Police Benevolent Association (BSPBA) from local business owner Tim Sanders.


Sanders, of Sanders Meat Market, provides the turkeys to the BSBPA for the event at-cost. “Everybody deserves a good Thanksgiving meal,” said Sanders. “Whatever we can do to help, we certainly try.”


The number of people attending the event continues to increase. This year, volunteers expect to serve 400 meals during the four hours the firehouse is open. The Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (EOC) reports that as the economy continues to downslide, more and more people will need similar community
support. 
With new families requiring assistance every day, the role of the community has never been so important.


Whatever your plans are this Thanksgiving, take a moment to express gratitude for the support and power of community. And, if Thursday finds you without a place to be, stop by the firehouse and enjoy a meal with family.

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