By Patrick McArdle
Members of the Rutland Loyal Order of Moose Lodge 1122 have strong feelings about the Thanksgiving meal they served on Thursday.
Mike Burke, of Fair Haven, who has run the Thanksgiving meal for the lodge for more than 15 years, said the event was “what we are all about.”
“This is who we are. This is what we do,” said Burke, whose 25th anniversary with the Moose lodge is next month.
The description drew a laugh from Craig Halley, of Rutland, who had described the meal using almost the same words just minutes before.
Halley, also the president of the 17 Moose lodges in the Northeast, said the Thanksgiving meal has a special place because it’s an event that helps the entire community and not just the members of the lodge.
“We believe that this particular event is one of the cornerstones of our lodge,” he said. “It’s part of our personality. It’s part of what makes us who we are. We do all kinds of different events to give back to the community, but this is the one that means the most to us as a lodge.”
The food for the dinner was purchased by the Rutland Moose lodge and the preparations were mostly done in-house, although store-bought pies are served for dessert.
Burke, who said his only real experience in a restaurant setting was in high school, said he and other lodge members started their preparations about 5 a.m. on Thursday to be ready to serve from noon to 3 p.m. Burke said preparations for the meal did not need to start weeks in advance, like some annual events, because at this point lodge members “pretty much have it down to a science.”
Halley and Burke said they were expecting strong turnout on Thursday. In past years, more than 400 people have come to the Thanksgiving meal. Burke said the high number of diners is usually signaled by mild weather, and Halley said Thursday’s weather was mild for November in Vermont.
Not all of the people helping out at the lodge on Center Street were members of the Moose. Mike and Gloria Benson, of Cuttingsville, dished out slices of turkey and ladles of mashed potatoes as they greeted a line of Rutland-area residents who queued up for a Thanksgiving meal.
Gloria Benson runs Gloria’s Pantry, a bakery in Cuttingsville.
“I decided to give back and help others,” she said.
Mike Benson added that he and his wife usually spend Thanksgiving as a couple, but by spending the day at the Moose lodge, Gloria wouldn’t have to do dishes after the meal.
Kevin Sullivan, of Rutland, said he has taken part in the holiday event several times. As a retired carpenter on a fixed income who lives alone, Sullivan said he enjoyed having a holiday meal with friends from the community.
“It’s just so nice to see the people and it’s so kind that they make this meal and give their time to do it. It’s appreciated, that’s for sure,” he said
Pat Brandeberry, of Rutland, added, “It’s all very good,” before pointing out she shouldn’t be talking with her mouth full.
Sullivan also held up a bagged meal that he was going to bring to his girlfriend, pointing out the Rutland lodge was not only willing to serve Thanksgiving to those in the building, but to people who couldn’t physically be there.
Burke said those preparing the holiday meal on the first floor of the lodge used about 120 pounds of turkey breast and, by noon, had put together six trays of mashed potatoes and five trays of stuffing.
Halley said the Rutland Rugby team also helped out by delivering more than 150 meals to different places in Rutland County.