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Westport Thanksgiving Feast Comes Home For The Holiday

Bonnie Hassan prepares to chop celery at Saugatuck Congregational Church in Westport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Ramin Ganeshram and Bob Mitchell volunteer for the Saugatuck Congregational Church Thanksgiving Feast. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Volunteers prepare for the 45th annual Thanksgiving Feast at Saugatuck Congregational Church. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
The new kitchen is ready for Thanksgiving at the Saugatuck Congregational Church. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

WESTPORT, Conn. — You think you’ve got a big brood coming to dinner today?

Volunteers at the Saugatuck Congregational Church expect about 300 guests to sit down to their 45th annual Thanksgiving Feast. It is being dished up at the church for the first since it suffered a fierce fire just three days before Thanksgiving 2011.

“It’s nice to be back,” said Bob Mitchell of Westport, one of the organizers of the mammoth meal.

The church, which served the feast at Christ & Holy Trinity Church for the ensuing years, created a new commercial kitchen that volunteers were happy to see Wednesday. Cans of cranberry sauce and bags of carrots and onions sat piled high in the kitchen’s pass-through, as dozens of volunteers took shifts setting tables and washing vegetables.

Today, Mitchell and fellow organizer Ramin Ganeshram of Westport were expected to send 40 turkeys on their way to be roasted in private homes, while others chopped, diced and mashed the many side dishes that would go along with the sliced bird.

“I figure this is my way to give back,” Mitchell said. “It means so much to some people. We get homeless people, of course, but we also get people with homes who would be all alone otherwise. And we get members of the congregation and others. Anyone can come.”

Ganeshram, a chef and author, said she learned to help others from her immigrant parents. Her father was from Trinidad, and her mother was from Iran.

“We traveled a lot, and I got to see real poverty, true starvation,” she said. “Culturally, to me, it’s really important to feed people. People shouldn’t go hungry.”

Though the church hosts the meal, Ganeshram was quick to mention the day has many sponsors, including partners Temple Israel, United Methodist Church and the Unitarian Church. Parents and children from Coleytown Middle School make mini-breads that are passed out to guests after the meal, and families from Temple Israel’s preschool make pies.

Stop & Shop donated $300 and Whole Foods gave the equivalent in food donations, as well as turkeys. Stew Leonard’s of Norwalk provided most of the 40 turkeys for the feast.

Volunteers included church members and friends who wanted to help spread holiday cheer.

“It’s a wonderful day,” Mitchell said.

The feast will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church, 245 Post Road E.

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