T

ravel through any New England town, and the signs for community meals are everywhere. Church suppers, Sunday pancakes at the rehouses, pasta dinners at VFW halls — these communal meals are part of the fabric of closeknit towns and villages. Norwich is no di erent.

34 • MARCH 2013

NorMag_MARCH_Master.indd 34

2/6/13 8:44 AM

On a recent winter evening, about 100 people packed the fellowship hall at the First Congregational Church for a roast beef dinner. Couples, families and singles melded together at long tables, feasting on beef, potatoes, vegetables and bread pudding. ey came from Norwich and from New London, Waterford, Clinton, Lisbon and other surrounding towns. Former church members Shawn and Debbie Szirbik drove from Clinton to attend the meal. “At this point, it’s more for the people than for the food. It was a family, not just a church,” Shawn Szirbik said. Community meals at the Norwichtown Green church, which are held at 5 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month between October and May, are “religious, but it’s not in-your-face religion,” said John Ross, who organizes the meals with his sister, Bev Shaw. “It’s more about the community and fellowship of being together.” Sue Scheck frequently attends church suppers at First Congregational. e bell ringer and former deacon said it’s a way for her to support the church. Besides, she loves the food.

Knights of Columbus Council 13 member Dean Bosse. Previous page, First Congregational Church meal organizer John Ross.

norwichmag.com • 35

NorMag_MARCH_Master.indd 35

2/6/13 8:45 AM

During Lent, Catholic (and some other Christian) churches often o er a Lenten sh fry, or a meat-free Friday meal to help church members abide by the Lenten tradition of abstaining from eating meat on Fridays during the 40-day period. Sacred Heart Church sponsors a Poor Man’s Soup Night every Friday during Lent. Families or organizations donate the bread and vegetarian soup ingredients, which are prepared by Lamothe and Wolinski, of the Council 13 Knights. A freewill contribution is accepted and donated to the Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl, which feeds people locally and worldwide. “Basically, you come down and have a poor man’s supper. You eat bread and soup,” Lamothe said. Afterward, churchgoers go upstairs and participate in a reading of the Stations of the Cross. St. Joseph’s Church on Cli Street has held an annual Fish Fry the past 12 years. Details for this year were not available in time for publication. For listings of other local sh fries and community dinners, visit norwichbulletin. eviesays.com and search the events listings.
36 • MARCH 2013

NorMag_MARCH_Master.indd 36

2/6/13 8:45 AM

Top left, Sacred Heart Church volunteer Gerard LeBlanc. Bottom left, Bob Gustafson, Marilyn Hooker, Peggy Andrews, Sandy Grant and Bill Grant enjoy each other’s company in the fellowship hall at First Congregational Church. Above, meatballs at Sacred Heart Church.

Amid the din of laughter and easy conversation around her, the church member’s face became serious when she talked about her need to socialize. “I live alone at this point in my life. It’s no fun eating alone, you know. I very much prefer being in the company of other people whenever I can be.” On the same night, another community meal was going on around the corner at Sacred Heart Church on West Town Street in Norwich. e event, which was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Council 13, featured spaghetti with homemade sauce and meatballs, garlic bread, bread pudding and cake — all for a freewill donation. “ e smell lured us in,” said Mary Trudeau, laughing. A er the 4 p.m. service, she and her husband, Harlan, opted to stay for the church dinner instead of going to the Olive Garden Restaurant as originally planned. Both ate every morsel on their plate. “It was spectacular,” said Mary, adding that she enjoys the camaraderie with other people, especially older individuals. “ ey’re walking, living history.” “You can tell it was homemade (sauce). We enjoyed the meatballs,” church member Valerie Musial said. “I think that was the best part of the meal, right?” she asked her husband, John, who concurred. John Musial said events such as this help him to get to know fellow parishioners better and feel like he is more a part of the community. “ is is a test lab for us, so we will see,” said Brian Lamothe, grand knight of the Knights of Columbus Council 13, as he watched parishioners trickling into the church’s basement at 5 p.m. e spaghetti dinner is not a regular event at Sacred Heart. Later, Lamothe said he was happy when he learned that about 44 people attended the dinner. Two years ago, the Knights held a successful corned beef dinner, and are
norwichmag.com • 37

NorMag_MARCH_Master.indd 37

2/6/13 8:45 AM

Knights of Columbus Council 13 Grand Knight Brian Lamothe, left, takes time to greet his brother, Dennis Lamothe, at the Sacred Heart Church dinner.

thinking of o ering more monthly dinners at Sacred Heart. On the third Sunday of every month, Council 13 also sponsors a breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon at the church. e menu includes eggs, hash browns, tater tots, bacon, sausage and pancakes. Valerie Musial said her family frequently attends the community breakfast. “It’s a good meal at a good price and there are no dishes.” With an infectious smile and energy, Lamothe said, “We like to get the people upstairs (at the service) to come down and be involved in it. We put the sign out front for the breakfast, so this way the community at large can come down. It’s fun.” e last breakfast they held bene tted Liz Hall’s Kid’s Christmas charity, which supplies presents to needy children dur-

ing the holiday season. “ at was successful,” Lamothe said proudly. Sometimes the Sacred Heart breakfast fundraisers feature a 50/50 ra e where 50 percent of the money goes to charity and the other 50 percent goes to the ra e winner. Knights of Columbus member Robert Wolinski said these ra es are becoming increasingly popular across New England and the country during dances and community meals. “It’s a bringing together in a social atmosphere to know each other. Sometimes, it’s amazing the connections you make, whether it’s previous friends, previous family relationships, or future business relationships. You never know who is going to be there. e next thing you know, you have a network of people you didn’t have before. It’s tremendous,” said Wolinski, who makes the bread pudding dish every month.

38 • MARCH 2013

NorMag_MARCH_Master.indd 38

2/6/13 8:45 AM

e Ta ville Volunteer Fire Department, at 134 Providence St., also o ers a breakfast on the third Sunday of each month. e bu et, which runs from 7:30 to 11 a.m., includes eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries and pancakes. Sometimes, French toast and ham are o ered. Once people nish eating in the rehouse training room, they migrate out to the truck oor, which has its own little social society, Fire Chief Timothy Jencks said. “ e people who come every month talk to each other, have co ee, talk with the people coming in.” In addition to their “standard following,” which has been coming monthly for about six years, new people learn about them through word of mouth. Police ofcers and re ghters from other departments also order meals to go. Additionally, Ta ville re ghters will deliver to-go meals to Wequonnoc Village, an elderly housing home on North Fi h Avenue. If the senior citizens don’t want to eat with the group, the re ghters will bring the breakfasts to their rooms. Because they’re frequently at the facility, Jencks said they have a very good friendship with the elderly residents and are on a rst-name basis with many of the 100 tenants. “ ey get very upset if I don’t go. It’s at the point I have to have co ee with them.” Money raised through the Ta ville Volunteer Fire Department’s monthly breakfast goes into a fund for the reghters’ annual formal awards dinner, as well as charities, which have included the Red Cross, Tommy Toy Fund, Relay for Life and the Breast Cancer Foundation. “I am very much a people-person and this gets us out into the public’s eye a little more,” Jencks said. “I am a rm believer that the Ta ville Fire Department is a business and the people out in our community are paying for us.”

A welcoming experience

Sitting with four members of his family at First Congregational Church, Bob Grant said he attends community dinners “because it’s good food and good companionship. It’s a good place to meet
norwichmag.com • 39

NorMag_MARCH_Master.indd 39

2/6/13 8:45 AM

good people. We’re all family when we get together.” Sitting across from him were a couple he hadn’t seen in 25 years. e Rev. William Dunlap of First Congregational Church said a lot of good fellowship is going on during the event. “ ese meals are very popular. We seem to have the same clientele. I know there are at least two or three tables, everybody at the table is related somehow or another. ey come to our dinner. en they go to their church dinner.” “A lot of people get disappointed when we don’t meet during the summer, but, obviously, the volunteers that put these things on want a break,” Dunlap added. Proceeds from First Congregational Church’s community meals are used to heat and maintain the church facilities, support soup kitchens and sponsor outreach/mission work, as well as 26 anksgiving meals and a family at Christmastime. Besides the delicious food, Mary Grant, of Lisbon, said, “ e whole atmosphere is friendly, like one big, happy family.” Another member of the Grant family — Peggy Andrews of Lisbon — said, “It’s a nice time for us as a family to get together.” Sandra Grant said she enjoys attending the community meals because she gets to know church members in a di erent way. Her husband, Bill, said he likes the fact that his dinner tasted like a homecooked meal. He didn’t think it tasted better than his wife’s cooking, but certainly as good. “It could never be better.” Commenting on his response, a man at the other end of the table piped up, “ at’s a smart man.”

40 • MARCH 2013

NorMag_MARCH_Master.indd 40

2/6/13 8:45 AM

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful