“To share” is the operative phrase in Dot this week

Think you’re cooking for a crowd this Thanksgiving?

Frank Kelley of South Boston, who is 75, roasted 50 turkeys last Tuesday as part of his annual labor of love  as head chef at St. Monica’s Parish near Andrew  Square. He has been running the holiday kitchen for the past 26 years, ever since the church started its famous everybody’s-welcome Thanksgiving spread.

With the help of its 50 volunteers, the church typically serves meals to the 500 locals who drop by the parish hall, and it brings “take-out” to shut-ins as well. As Kelley notes, “We have volunteers taking hot turkey dinners to homebound folks in Edward Everett Square and Savin Hill, but most of our deliveries are here in Southie.”

Kelley and company epitomize the true spirit of that first Thanksgiving down in Plymouth where chiefs Squanto and Massasoit and other members of the Aknabi tribe showed the Pilgrims the best ways to tap maple trees, to cook all the great native vegetables, and to preserve produce for the winter.

All over Dorchester, folks are carrying on this tradition of sharing with their neighbors –for this one day a year, at least—despite the sputtering economy.

Last Monday, Blessed Mother Teresa Parish in the Polish Triangle gave out more than 125 “Thanksgiving baskets” (fresh turkey, fixings, pie) to regular visitors to its food pantry. The St. Vincent de Paul Society supplies the turkeys to BMT and other Catholic parishes in the area. Roche Brothers Supermarkets in Wellesley, which sells the turkeys to the Society, noted that the agency’s order was up from last year.

In Uphams Corner, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church has been giving out baskets and canned goods for the last two Tuesdays.  Approximately 350 fresh turkeys (which came from the Greater Boston Food Bank) went out to regular food pantry patrons from Dorchester, Roxbury, and beyond.  Canned goods were distributed to hundreds more who visited the 18-year-old pantry at St. Mary’s for the first time this November.

In addition to funneling food from the Food Bank, another Uphams Corner-based agency, Project Care and Concern, is using another tactic to get food to the hungry. Sr. Joyce McMullen, SND, paired better-off suburban families with kids in Newton’s Country Day School with 100 families in Dot’s Harbor Point. “We give the name and address of, say, Mrs. Jones at Harbor Point to Mrs. Williams in Newton, and Mrs. Williams makes up her own basket to take.”  Home rooms at Buckingham, Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge put together 55 more baskets for Harbor Point.  A variety of other charitable organizations provided Sr. McMullen with food and donations for Uphams Corner residents for a total of about 350 Thanksgiving packages.

Similar stories can be found all over town, including Boston Project Ministries/ Global Ministries Christian Church (671 Washington Street), which delivered about 55 of this year’s 60 baskets to their immediate Codman Square neighbors.

Other Dot institutions are modestly doing their bit to turn Thanksgiving into more than just a celebration for the immediate family.  For example, the Ice Creamsmith in Lower Mills closes for the season on Thanksgiving after patrons have picked up their holiday desserts. Any leftover ice cream pies and cakes are taken to Dorchester police and fire stations for on-duty personnel to enjoy.

Last Friday, lifelong Dot resident Annissa Essaibi George hosted the first annual Thanksgiving potluck at the Stitch House, her 846 Dot. Ave sewing /knitting  store. George asked her regulars to bring an unwrapped toy valued between $15 and $25 to donate to District C-11’s toy drive. “Our local police host several hundred kids every year for a Christmas Party and this year they lost some funding and are short on toys,” she explained.

Heart-warming  and praiseworthy as these and the many other unmentioned local  efforts are,  St. Mary’s food pantry coordinator Sarah Coburn Borgeson reflected that  some Dorchester families are hungry not only on November 26. “We get a lot of publicity and donations on Thanksgiving, and we really appreciate it, but the reality is that in spring and summer  when the kids are home from school, parents find it harder to put food on the table and that’s when the donations and pantry-staffing help are really needed.”