The Thanksgiving spirit was abundant Thursday from the Salvation Army Chapel on Main Street to the grounds of Ulla Muller Elementary School to folks who interrupted their work to offer an impromptu meal, and, of course to Emancipation Garden for the Penn-Scipio traditional feast. It was a sunny day complementing the holiday spirit.
The quiet of lower Main Street was broken by spirited songs pouring from the Salvation Army Chapel which had a passing tour group stopped in its tracks. "If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands," sang out from the chapel.
Inside was indeed a happy group of folks gobbling up their turkey to the accompaniment of an organist and Board President Tom Bolt, admonishing the flock to "clap your hands, stamp your feet" and so on.
Bolt and his wife, Jenny, are fixtures at the annual feast, serving meals or doing whatever’s needed. This year the feeding line looked abbreviated. Bolt explained they’d tried something new with volunteers arriving in shifts and the guests staggered. It seemed to be working well, as by about 1:30 Bolt said they had already served about 350.
Captains Valerie and Daniel Hazeldine, Salvation Army regional coordinators, said they are looking for larger quarters to serve more of the community.
Bolt said he notices more need than ever in the community. "We have many more homeless today,” he lamented, echoing the need for more space."We would still like to get our food program using leftovers from the hotels and markets, but we need a place to do it," Bolt said.
Frenchtown resident George "Chicken" Greaux remembers his first Thanksgiving holiday in his family home on a Frenchtown hill. "I remember my mother would cook things. We’d get a piece of ham from Jack’s shop, not too much, and my mother got a turkey from the store. Things were rough, but the next year there was a chicken in the yard and I knock his head off with a broomstick and that’s what we had that year."
The holiday spirit pervaded. Walking down an alley to Main Street on Thursday, Nilda Hector greeted a reporter from high on a ladder where she was applying a coat of white paint to the entrance of Feddy’s Take-Out. "I want it to look nice so we can maybe rent more stores in this building," she said with a ready smile. "Now," she said, "would you like some food?"
Volunteers from the Caribe Tradewinds Lodge 589 and Pearls of the V.I. 585 were kept busy serving a feast – mounds of turkey, macaroni and cheese, potato stuffing, rice and peas, lasagna, baked ham, guava tarts and pumpkin pies – to a seemingly endless line.
Tradewinds member Joe Cranston, happily dishing out the feast, said, "We’ve been at this for years.” Looking over the crowd, he added, "We did 593 last year and it looks like more this year."
Donned in bright red Ivanna Eudora Kean Junior High School T-shirts students Delta Frederick, Teliyah Pierre and Na’Quasha Lewis greeted folks handing out plates, plastic utensils and great big smiles.
"We wanted to do something to give back," said Frederick, "and it’s fun, too.” There were about 10 members from the school’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America group. “It’s our first time and it feels good to help," Frederick said.
A little before 2 p.m., all was quiet at Emancipation Garden for the Penn-Scipio family’s annual feast, which along with friends, relatives and volunteers, they have dished up since 1994. All the turkeys, hams, baked chicken, kingfish and other treats had been gobbled up.
Francine Penn-Scipio and volunteer Ivanne Farr looked a bit exhausted.
"It was all gone by about 1:30 today," said Farr.
Penn-‘Scipio looked from under the brim of her smart green hat. "Yes, but they all ate well," she said. "We must have had 300."
And from the looks of things, anyone who hankered for some turkey Thursday, went away happy.