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November 25. 2013 10:43PM

Community Thanksgiving dinner for 400 brings out Nashua's volunteer spirit


Nashua North culinary instructor Keith Klawes watches as his students prepare for Successful Living's annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)


Keith Manheck of Celebrations Distinctive Catering in Nashua will be preparing turkeys for the feast. Until recently, the Partnership’s staff members cooked the turkeys at home and drove them in for the dinner. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)


Nashua North culinary students Kayla Morrill and Jared Dube cut squash and peel potatoes while preparing for the Partnership for Successful Living’s 13th annual Community Thanksgiving Feast. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)


Nashua North students Erin Horsey, left, and Marisol Molina peel potatoes and cut squash while preparing for Successful Living's annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

NASHUA -- It takes a lot of hands to prepare, cook and serve dinner for 400, but that is how Nashua likes to celebrate Thanksgiving.

The Partnership for Successful Living will host the city's 13th annual Community Thanksgiving Feast at 45 High St. today from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. More than 50 volunteers from all over the city will serve turkey and all the trimmings to a crowd who might otherwise have to take a pass on Thanksgiving.

"Anyone who may not be able to enjoy dinner at home can come," said Jean Mullin who works at the Partnership, an umbrella organization for six non-profit agencies that provide services such as housing advocacy and health care for individuals and families in need.
Fred Manheck of Celebrations Distinctive Catering has the big job — the turkey. Manheck took on the task when he learned that Partnership staffers were cooking turkeys at their homes and bringing them in for the feast. Manheck, who was thawing 25 turkeys in his shop last week, now rules the roasting.

"I bring everything in all carved, cut and ready to serve," Manheck said.

As for the stuffing, Manheck said fresh ingredients are the key to success."Fresh herbs like sage add a wonderful flavor," he said. Fresh chopped vegetables such as peppers and onions are also a nice touch.

"And there's no substitute for butter," said Manheck who figured he'll be using about 12 pounds to prepare the stuffing.On Friday, a crew of students at Nashua High North was working with culinary instructor Keith Klawes to peel and prep hundreds of pounds of vegetables. Cooking began Monday.

"The kids do a great job and they take it very seriously," said Klawes.Mullin said about 50 volunteers from City Hall, local banks, businesses and other organizations volunteer to help run the event. A couple of Thanksgivings ago, then-Gov. John Lynch stopped in, grabbed an apron and began chatting and filling plates.

"We need a lot of people to be greeters for guests and to clean up," said Mullin who added that the server jobs are highly competitive and usually go to governors, mayors, aldermen and other well-known faces.

"And they have a great time out there with all of the people who come," she said.

Although it's a lot of work, Manheck said there's also a lot of satisfaction.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to help and that's kind of what the holidays are about, being thankful," he said.

btaormina@newstote.com


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