CHICOPEE — The free turkey will be back — and so are the volunteers who make the Knights of Columbus Fairview Council 4044′s free Thanksgiving feast possible.
The dinner makes its official return Thursday.
In preparation, volunteers gathered Monday at the Castle of Knights at 1599 Memorial Drive in Chicopee, where the dinner will be held, to begin shredding about 110 turkeys and turkey breasts, 50 of which were donated by state Sen. Adam Gomez on behalf of the Chicopee legislative delegation.
A tray with turkey, stuffing, gravy, peas, potatoes, squash, cranberry sauce, a roll and dessert awaits each person who stops by between noon and 2 p.m. Thursday.
Residents of Chicopee, Holyoke and South Hadley who requested a delivery can expect the same meal.
The free dinner was put on hold for three years, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Steven Dubreuil, grand knight of Council 4044, estimates 1,300 meals will be delivered and 1,000 to 1,500 served in person.
“I think during the three-year time period, people found some alternative places and things to do for Thanksgiving, but a lot of people are thrilled we’re back,” he said.
Dubreuil says about 100 volunteers will be present Thanksgiving Day, with 200 others lending a hand at different times this week.
Two of them, Lorraine Lacasse and Gerry Lacasse, a former grand knight of Council 4044, have volunteered for as long as they can remember. “It’s people helping people, and that’s the camaraderie you form with volunteers and people that you’ve known for a long time,” Gerry Lacasse said.
Lorraine Lacasse encourages others to give back to those in need and considers the annual dinner a good way to do so.
Mark Urban, member of Council 4044, said the need for food programs is more important than ever, given financial struggles for many since the pandemic, with inflation and rent increases.
Urban said it’s fulfilling to know hours spent in the Castle of Knights kitchen help people in need.
Council member Robert Boucher, who gets his family to help in the kitchen as well, said the thank-you cards he receives from older adults are the main reason he continues to volunteer.
“It brings tears to your eyes sitting there and reading the cards when they come in,” Boucher said. “It’s exactly what this is about.”
In addition, volunteers will prepare side dishes for Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen and Pantry Wednesday. Kate’s Kitchen will receive six turkeys and side dishes as well.