Milford nonprofits feed 80 on Thanksgiving

MILFORD — For 90 minutes on Thursday afternoon, volunteers from the Beth-El Center homeless shelter and soup kitchen in Milford were busy giving out Thanksgiving dinners to anyone who wanted one. In total, 80 people were fed.

Everyone received a packaged, hot meal of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and green bean casserole, and items from Beth-El’s pantry.

“In a year unlike any other year, it’s really important that we do take time to celebrate, and that we recognize that it is a special day to bring people together around it,” Beth-El Center Executive Director Jenn Paradis said.

The meals were made possible through a collaboration of five partners: Milford’s Mary Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, Dockside Brewery, Devon Rotary, Evening Star Holiness Church, and the Beth-El Center. There were also donations of croissants, muffins and pies from Julia’s Bakery in Orange.

Additionally, hats, scarves, gloves, masks, water bottles, and blankets were also given out.

“We had been doing a collection over the past couple of weeks to get ready for today,” Paradis said.

The meals were cooked by employees at Dockside Brewery.

“They put up a volunteer list from their staff to see who would help prepare meals,” Paradis said. “Within a few moments, they had 19 volunteers.”

The staff at Dockside Brewery made close to 100 Thanksgiving meals in total, so more hot meals will be distributed to those in need throughout the weekend, Paradis said.

“Beth-El Center gives out meals twice a day, every day. That will continue, and then we’ll incorporate these Thanksgiving meals into those other meals,” she said.

According to Paradis, Dockside Brewery staff originally planned a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner, but a few weeks ago, they decided that would not be the best idea at this time, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In past years, a Thanksgiving meal has traditionally been hosted by staff at Mary Taylor church. Because of COVID, staff at the church chose not do a sit-down service, and instead helped in the collaboration.

Aside from distributing meals at Beth-El, volunteers delivered 15 meals to some of the encampments throughout the Greater Milford area, where the unsheltered are staying.

“We made sure to extend Thanksgiving to folks who might not normally come to what we had today,” Paradis said.

Beth-El has outreach and engagement services to locate Milford’s homeless. “We do a lot of walking the beat, talking to people, and making sure we know if there might be a tent set up somewhere — that we’re connecting that individual to services,” she said. “Encampments are a part of every community, unfortunately. We like to make sure that we have strong relationships and that our folks know that we’re here for what their needs might be.”

This is the first annual collaboration of all the community partners.

“It’s wonderful that so many groups came together. It was great to be able to distribute those meals. We hope to make to it an annual event,” Paradis said. “We want folks to know that they are a part of our community and they are a part of celebrating Thanksgiving.”