Way back in 1985, Scott Macaulay was preparing to be alone in thanksgiving. His parents were divorced and so does he. “Nobody talking to anybody,” he said, “I was looking at a pretty rotten Thanksgiving. And I absolutely hate to eat alone.”
Suddenly he had an idea, What if he hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and invited 12 random strangers using an ad in his hometown paper, the Melrose Free Press,? It seemed like a manageable number to host at the First Baptist Church he attended — and, yeah, it was a little crazy, but it had to be better than being lonely.
“I knew that I couldn’t be the only one in this situation,” he said. “There had to be at least a dozen people out there who didn’t want to spend Thanksgiving Day alone.”
And boy was he right? Since that one dinner 33 years ago Macaulay has made his free feast an annual event, inviting anyone to make a reservation by calling his office phone number that’s printed in the paper. Through the years, he has fed plenty of widows, widowers, homeless people and college kids who can’t make it home.
In his small town og about 27,000 residents about 10 miles northwest of Boston he feeds 60 – 100 people every year. When the oven broke at his church one Thanksgiving, he moved the repast to the basement of Melrose’s Green Street Baptist Church, which now donates space for the dinner every year.
The preparations begin about a week before Thanksgiving. First, he goes grocery shopping and purchases everything himself, He doesn’t like to say how much he spends but when he was pressed he admitted the total exceeds $1,000.The menu includes four large turkeys, five kinds of pie (pumpkin, apple, mince, cherry and the ever-popular Hershey’s frozen sundae pie), sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, butternut squash, cranberries, fruit cups and rolls with butter. He stores it all in refrigerators at the church until the morning of the feast.
A few days beforehand, he hauls in sofas, recliners, oriental rugs, even a couple of fake fireplaces, and decorates a rec hall to resemble a cozy living room. Candlesticks and cloth napkins are placed on the tables, curtains are hung in the windows, and adjoining rooms are set up for guests to relax and get to know each other over appetizers: chips and dip in one room and cheese and crackers in the next.
Reservations usually come in at the last minute, he said, “because everyone is hoping for a better offer.” After 32 Thanksgivings, Macaulay can laugh about it and never takes offense. He’s made dozens of friends and an equal number of memories.
“This isn’t about the food, though,” Macaulay said. “It’s about having a place to go. Silence is unbearable, especially on Thanksgiving. My goal is always to replicate the feeling of having a nice dinner in somebody’s home.”
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