By Jeniece Roman, Record-Journal staff
MERIDEN — Hundreds were served a traditional Thanksgiving meal at the annual YMCA Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday.
The YMCA opened its doors around noon to serve a meal of turkey, potatoes, greens, stuffing and dessert at no cost. Donated clothing and non-perishable food items were also available.
“We serve at twelve o’clock and people were waiting out there at ten o’clock,” said Steve Markoja, branch director. “For the (YMCA) to be able to open those doors and help organize this, it’s what our mission is all about.”
Markoja said close to 250 people were served at the YM and an additional 400 meals were prepared and delivered. More than 100 volunteers were involved.
“We had people prepping the food, we had people delivering the food and prior to even today, we had people donating,” Markoja said.
Markoja said the event came together with the help of New Life Church, where the turkeys were cooked, and Sal’s Pizza, where food was prepped. The work began on Monday.
“It’s more than just one day,” Markoja said. “People are calling throughout the week to have meals delivered to their homes. There’s a lot of leg work behind the scenes.”
Teresa Vitelli, a city resident, said she has volunteered at the annual dinner for 20 years. The number of attendees and volunteers has grown each year.
“To me the theme is about togetherness,” Vitelli said. “Coming together and not being alone and seeing familiar faces year after year.”
Ray Correa said he attends the YMCA dinner every year. Along with the meal, it also gives him the opportunity to spend time with people in the community.
“I think it’s good. It helps you out,” Correa said. “Thanks to God I’m able to get a meal.”
Paula Bucko, a Haddam resident, volunteered for the first time at the suggestion of a friend. She brought her family to teach her children the importance of giving back.
“Our kids are of the age where they can learn a little bit about being thankful for what they have,” Bucko said.
Bucko greeted guests at the door and directed them to open seats. She said her duties as a volunteer included serving beverages at tables and bringing plates of food to the disabled.
“What I’ve noticed is, a lot of these people know each other,” Bucko said. “They have their own community which I think is lovely.”