What began 22 years ago, as a way to provide a Thanksgiving meal to international students at Saint Leo University, evolved over time into a joint effort by the Benedictine Sisters of Florida and Saint Anthony Parish to feed the hunger “of anyone alone or in need” on Thanksgiving.
“Our outreach is to migrants, the homeless, those who are alone, and those seeking fellowship on this day of thanks and gratitude,” Sister Roberta Bailey, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida, said via email. “It is always a fun day of family and friends coming together in community to give thanks,” she added.
The meal is served on Thanksgiving Day at 2 p.m., in the Saint Anthony Parish Hall. Deliveries are also made to people who are unable to get to the hall, according to Faith Pridmore, director of mission advancement for the Benedictine Sisters of Florida.
Sister Mary David Hydro chairs the event and there are generally about 25 volunteers, including those that deliver, Pridmore said.
“We usually feed about 225 at the parish hall, plus the deliveries, plus we usually send pans of food over to the abuse center, so we feed about 350,” she said.
The menu consists of turkey, salad, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, pie, and coffee, iced tea, lemonade and water.
“We actually get the turkeys sliced,” Pridmore said, which cuts down on labor. But, volunteers “come the night before and usually peel 100 to 125 pounds of potatoes.”
“The Women’s Club over at St. Anthony’s do the pies,” she said. Except, “Sister Donna DeWitt does all of the pumpkin pies that go in the take-outs to the homebound.”
“The day of, Sister Donna does all of the cooking. So, the stuffing and the turkey and the gravy and the mashed potatoes and the green beans — and she has some helpers.
“Then, we have the drivers.
“Then, we have the servers at the parish hall,” Pridmore said.
“Ellen Mejias is the volunteer kitchen manager. She’s got two older daughters that help, usually, and her husband,” Pridmore said.
The idea is to provide “a feeling of fellowship, community and faith” in addition to the holiday meal.
“The kids over at Saint Anthony’s usually do the decorations. We try to make it as special as we can,” Pridmore said.
The Saint Leo University student Social Work Club, under Dr. Veronika Ospina-Kammerer, does fundraising each year to support the holiday tradition, Pridmore said.
Others help, too.
For instance, Pridmore said, “The Golden Corral gives us the rolls and their honey butter.”
If you would like to help or attend this year’s gathering, please call (352) 588-8443.
Those wishing to attend are asked to call by Nov. 17 at 1 p.m., so organizers can get a head count.
Published November 8, 2017