Volunteers prep for Thanksgiving community feasts in Southold, Greenport

This Thanksgiving, volunteers will dedicate their time to making sure everyone on the North Fork has somewhere to spend the holiday.

Members of First Universalist Church of Southold will be serving lunch around 1 p.m. at the American Legion Hall in Southold, continuing a tradition that dates back about 30 years.

The free meal is designed to be a “community feast,” church member Bill Funke said. He has been volunteering at the holiday lunch for the past 10 years.

“I like giving back to the community,” he said. “A lot of people have forgotten about it the last few years, but we have to get back to acting as a community … the idea of community, I think nationally has taken a back seat, so it’s important to have things that people can get together and just do.”

Mr. Funke said about 40 to 50 people enjoy the annual lunch, and the numbers are expected to be similar this year.

Following a March 2015 fire that destroyed the church, the annual meal was served at the Custer Institute in Southold before moving to its current location in the American Legion. But, without a prep kitchen, modifications had to be made to the meal, such as serving turkey breast instead of a whole turkey.

“We are always happy to have donations of food,” Mr. Funke said. “If someone wants to bring something, that’s fine. If they just want to bring themselves that’s fine, too.”

Similarly, the Rev. Jimmie Smiley of Reel For God Outreach Ministries and his wife, Caprice, will be serving Thanksgiving meals from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. next Thursday at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Greenport.

The meals —now in their fourth year — will feature a new twist this year: dessert before dinner. Anyone in the community is invited to the church beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday to enjoy a multitude of donated dessert items.

“On Thanksgiving a lot of people don’t eat dessert because they’re so full,” the Rev. Smiley said. “So that’s why we thought about doing dessert before dinner. Magic Fountain is giving us two big bins of ice cream, Briermere [Farms] is giving us pies. People can come in the night before and have dessert and say something they’re thankful for.”

He said they’re able to offer two days of meals because of a growing number of donations and volunteers.

Each year, children have prepped food on Wednesday evening by cutting vegetables, seasoning turkeys, making desserts and more.

Additionally, everything used and served is donated or purchased with donated money, including the food, the linens on the tables and the tent out back to accommodate a large amount of guests.

Donations are still being sought and those interested in volunteering at either meal can contact the Rev. Smiley at 631-764-1805 or Mr. Funke at [email protected].

“The main purpose is we’re showing love,” the Rev. Smiley said. “Everyone wants to be loved. However, the greatest part of the day is seeing everyone coming together.”

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Courtesy photo: Volunteers serve a Thanksgiving meal at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Greenport.