November 24, 2006
By ARIELLE LEVIN BECKER, Courant Staff Writer
The boxes of turkey, stuffing, rice and green beans weren't earmarked for the Rev. Franklyn Greenaway. But for the minister, standing in a corner of the South Park Inn shelter and watching a dozen residents dine on the food he had brought, it might as well have been his own Thanksgiving meal.
"I'm feasting right here," Greenaway said. "Just doing this, I feel full."
Greenaway watched some more, offered blessings and smiles to those doing the actual feasting and lingered with a contented look in his eyes before heading back into fellow minister Rev. Vernon Matthews' van for another round of deliveries.
And so the holiday went for Greenaway and scores of volunteers from Phillips Metropolitan C.M.E. Church in Hartford, who spent the day preparing and delivering some 350 meals for shelter guests, seniors and Hartford firefighters on duty.
"Thanksgiving on wheels," as the church's pastor, the Rev. James Walker calls it, got its start a few years back, inspired by the police officers in the congregation who worked on the holiday. While many churches host their own dinners, Phillips Metropolitan found another niche to fill: bringing food to those who might not otherwise make it to a meal.
"It gives people that at-home experience," Walker said, wearing a hairnet, gloves and an apron, as the food-packaging operation got into full swing all around him in the Wilson firehouse in Windsor.
The giant trays of food came both from volunteers' kitchens and from Boston Market, paid for by donations from church members. And volunteers formed an assembly line of sorts to package each meal, handing down containers as each added another portion of the meal. Youngsters bustled about with stacks of food containers, ready for delivery, as Lillian Graham, the grand dame of the occasion, sat at one end of the room, a calm presence ready to offer advice or quick answers when called upon.
The year they began, with 150 meals to serve, she never could have imagined it would grow this big, she said.
"It's easy now, because everybody looks forward to it," she said.
McArthur Hamilton certainly does. The East Hartford resident helps out every year, and counts the smiles he receives when he makes a delivery among the best parts of the holiday.
"You get to take to somebody something you've already got waiting for you at home," he said.
A first-timer, Windsor resident Carla DiLoreto came after hearing about the program from a co-worker. DiLoreto's own church collects money and food, she said, but nothing like this.
"I was blown away," she said as she scooped mashed potatoes. "I couldn't believe all these people, giving up their families for Thanksgiving. It's just so nice."
Of course, many of the volunteers still had an afternoon of the traditional Thanksgiving feast, football and family to look forward to. Fourteen-year-old Chaz Carroll of New Britain was on his way to his grandmother's house for dinner, but spent the morning doling out stuffing, his way of serving those who are less fortunate.
For Sheila Perry of Vernon, who topped off Chaz's stuffing with a healthy serving of gravy, helping out seemed the way Thanksgiving was meant to be spent.
"It's not about me, it's about serving others," she said. "This is what we do because it brings fulfillment."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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