Groton – straining turkey stock, assembling stuffing and mashed potatoes – Trad Dart was doing it all at 6am on Christmas Day.
The lonely chef was preparing nearly 150 meals for friends and strangers at Mystic’s Union Baptist Church on Sunday. I go to a church called
Meanwhile, fellow parishioner Dawn Scanlon was assigning volunteer positions and preparing a dining room decorated with red poinsettias and hanging paper snowflakes.
They joined a dozen volunteers to serve meals and wait on guests.
This is the eighth year that Dart and Scanlon have volunteered to help prepare the church’s Christmas meal. The two decided to continue her once-a-year diet after former volunteers Gail and Dave Oko retired after doing so for over 15 years of hers.
“This is our gift to the community,” says Scanlon.
Dart said he’s a professional chef, has worked at local restaurants like Mystic Aquarium and the Lighthouse Inn, wants to give back to the church, and feels most comfortable in the kitchen. He said he would be home in time to make dinner with his children and his grandchildren.
The dinner he prepared included roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, creamy cauliflower and carrots.
For the past three years, dining has been take-out and delivery only due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now serves people in person on Sundays.
Scanlon said it was important for the church to prepare the Christmas meal. Especially since the cost of food and living has soared post-pandemic. She said she received a donation of $2,500 from the Oak Federal Credit Union to help the church prepare meals this year.
“A lot of people are alone and it’s a good time,” says Scanlon. “I want more people to come and eat.”
Mystic’s longtime friends Bessie Stafford and Pawcatuck’s Jannet Kessler had their first Christmas meal together at the church. Ever since their loved ones passed away over the years, the two have relied on each other for car rides and companionship.
Stafford said they were both alone that day and didn’t want to cook a big dinner.
Kessler said he spent Christmas Eve with some of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but eating at the Union Baptist Church “is great for people like us when our kids grow up and have their own holidays.” was”.
During the two hours of food service, Scanlon said 48 deliveries were made within the first hour and about 30 people were served in-person.
Among the volunteers were Gina Williams, her husband Brian, and their children Chase and Angelina. The family is not parishioners, but volunteers every year. The oldest, Chase, is now a sophomore in college and started volunteering in middle school.
Williams said she has volunteered in various places since college and wants her children to have the same experience. She said her children look forward to it every year and it has become a tradition.
“We open presents at home and then come here. We have a lot of fun and really like helping people,” she said. You get a lot, I know everyone says that, but it’s true.”
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