Chilly Thanksgiving Warmed by 747 Free Meals

The kitchen crew worked steadily to churn out 747 meals on Thanksgiving Day at Second Baptist Church. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Bohanon)

By Lura Jackson

Gathering together in celebration is perhaps the greatest joy of the holiday season – but not everyone has nearby family or the means to enjoy a proper feast. To ensure that everyone in the community had the opportunity for a robust meal, Bill and Arlene Gibson organized approximately 60 volunteers and enough fixings to serve 747 free meals on Thanksgiving Day.

This is the fifth year of the feast, which was held at Second Baptist Church. Approximately half of the meals were eaten in the hall by community members of all ages. Some came from as far away as Lincoln to join their past friends and neighbors in the experience. “It was amazing to go out and talk to the people,” shared Bill Gibson, who most enjoyed sitting in fellowship with those that came.

It wasn’t just those who were able to come that were included in the event. Several hundred meals were delivered to the Calais area, including homes and businesses. “Anybody that had to work Thanksgiving day, we made sure they had a turkey dinner,” Gibson said. Considering that the deliveries were made under extremely difficult weather conditions – with a wind chill of below zero – being able to bring people much-needed food was especially important. “I don’t know how they did it,” Gibson said, expressing that he was struggling after doing two deliveries.

Volunteers from all corners of the community came forward to help, ensuring that the meals were prepped, packed, served and delivered and that the dining area was cleaned after each group was finished. Some volunteers have been helping since the free dinners began.

Along with volunteers, this year’s event was marked by the number of donations received. The Gibsons’ goal was to cook fifty turkeys – and they had to ask people to stop donating them at one point because so many were coming in. Others made truly amazing donations, including one couple that purchased sixty pies, Gibson said. With the basic needs met, still others brought in dish after dish to share.

During the feast, diners contributed $1,000 in donations, all of which will go to the Irene Chadbourne Ecumenical Food Pantry’s Backpack program to support children in need.


“I’d like to thank anyone and everyone who helped out in any way, from the bottom of our hearts,” Gibson said. “I think this was our best one yet.”