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Goodwill provides hundreds of seniors with holiday dinner

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GROTON — Thanks to one man’s passion for acknowledging the worth of society’s older members, the town’s senior citizens were honored last week with a special Thanksgiving dinner at the popular Barn at Gibbet Hill.

“It’s definitely worth the trouble,” said organizer Mark Lynch about the Nov. 15 dinner. “I just think it should be done for the seniors. I did one in Fitchburg, too. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve tried to get one going.”

With several such dinners to his credit, Lynch last year asked the owners of the Gibbet Hill Grill, where he currently works as a bartender, if they would host a Thanksgiving dinner for the town’s seniors.

“I’ve been doing one in Townsend for the past eight years, so last year I decided to do one here in Groton,” said Lynch. “I spoke to the Webbers and they jumped on the idea. They loved it. So I just made a proposal and got some figures together.”

Once he had approval from the owners, he worked with the restaurant’s executive chef, Karen Osterberg, who volunteered to help do the cooking. Osterberg, he said, was very helpful in getting the restaurant’s vendors to donate product and food for the dinner.

“Actually it wasn’t that hard to pull off,” Lynch reflected. “Everybody seemed to enjoy it and wanted to help. Nobody turned us down. In fact, they now look forward to it, so we hope to make it an annual event.”

The inaugural dinner at Gibbet Hill last year took about a month to prepare. That dinner was a huge success, with a packed house of over 200 seniors.

With at least that many expected this year, plus 25 or so homebound seniors who had their meals delivered and a squadron of volunteers, Lynch guessed that a total of 350 Thanksgiving dinners were served up last week.

Not surprisingly, last week’s meal featured a turkey dinner “with all the trimmings” and a dessert of apple crisp washed down with apple cider.

“It was great,” commented Fred Bond, one of the guests. “They should do it every year, because everyone looks forward to it. I plan to come back next year if I’m still around!”

“The dinner was delicious and I enjoyed it very much,” added fellow senior Midge Rose, a resident of Rivercourt. “I’d recommend it to everyone.”

“The whole thing was great,” said Florence Funch. “I came last year and will come again.”

Entertainment was provided by high school freshman pianist Marie Jordan.

“When I took a break, a lot of people gave me the thumbs up,” said Jordan. “It was nice. Hopefully they’ll invite me to come again next year.”

Transportation for seniors needing a ride was provided by the Police Department, after police Chief Donald Palma borrowed several vans from the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department. Meals for homebound seniors were delivered while everyone else enjoyed dinner, before the vans were again used to drive people home.

“I think it’s great,” said Gibbet Hill owner Steve Webber. “It was a big success last year and this year the barn is actually going to be packed. Oversubscribed, in fact. My guess is that yes, the dinner is going to be held every year.”

“Everybody loved it last year,” said Council on Aging Director Martha Campbell. “There were many seniors who had never been to the Gibbet Hill Barn and were just delighted to be in that environment. I think the Webbers are a wonderful family who are very involved with seniors and senior issues.”

“Last year’s dinner was wonderfully received by the seniors, who really appreciated it,” reported Lynch. “They loved it. In fact, their only complaint was that there was too much food. I can deal with that!”