By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — The crock pots were heaped full of favorites like baked beans, stews, and soups.
There was plenty to go around at the Church of the Transfiguration’s community meal Aug. 12.
The church is one of a long list of area churches and organizations tapped into the Derry Community Meals Network, a mission to offer people in the area a free meal or one with only a minimal donation.
This year, the group will offer a Thanksgiving feast for anyone who wants to get out of the house and share the holiday with friends and family.
It’s a mission to offer not only good food, but also fellowship.
Churches take turn putting their community meals on the schedule. Schools are also doing their part.
Lorrie Belinsky, assistant principal at West Running Brook Middle School, said she is part of the Meals Network committee and her school will host the first Thanksgiving feast this year.
West Running Brook has hosted its own free monthly spaghetti meals for about three years.
It’s all about paying it forward, Belinsky said.
West Running Brook will ask parents for donations of boxed spaghetti throughout the year and any left over is donated to local food pantries.
Seeing people gather for fellowship and good food is heartwarming, she said.
“We get a good turnout,” Belinsky said. “We don’t put out a donation basket.”
It’s not just the free meal, but the friendship.
“They go for the fellowship, and just to sit their their friends for a while,” Belinsky said.
She said donations will be welcome to help support the Thanksgiving meal. Since this is the first year, it will be a work in progress.
“We will have two seatings, with both the cafeteria and the gym set up,” she said.
People who want to attend will need to get a ticket prior to the meal. Locations around town will have the tickets, including the municipal center and participating churches.
Belinsky said they are hoping to serve about 200 people on Thanksgiving Day.
The Thanksgiving meal will be held at West Running Brook Middle School on Nov. 22, There will be two seatings, 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The Community Meals Network hopes to add more churches to its list of those opening their doors for free meals.
Volunteers and donations are welcome. To find out more about the Thanksgiving meal, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a monetary donation, send to Salvation Army, Thanksgiving, 18 Folsom Road, Derry, 03038.