Special Delivery: Community Valentine’s Day Meal for 350

Among the volunteers serving, packing and delivering 350 meals to residents of Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach on Sunday were Tony Debarrus, Dick Gendron and Lucie Hatch. Age Friendly Saco has partnered with the Ferry Beach Retreat & Conference Center and many volunteer hands to provide the community meal on Valentine’s Eve. Photo by Tammy Wells

SACO – Volunteers from Age Friendly Saco, Saco Bay Rotary, Ferry Beach Retreat & Conference Center and others came together to prepare and deliver lunch to 350 people on Sunday. A lot of hard work and community contributions – both financial and time – have gone into the celebratory community meal to help mark Valentine’s Day

The recipe for something like this to happen includes:

• Purchase and prepare food for 350 servings of chicken parmesan, sauce, spaghetti, side salad and carrot cake.

• Pair them with lovely Valentine’s Day cards designed and created by students at Thornton Academy, who also wrote thoughtful notes to recipients – like ‘Hope you have a loving Valentine’ and ‘ (I hope) you spend it with someone you love.”

• Add one more candy, chocolate, from Robin’s Confections.

• Next, line up your ranks of volunteers—servers, packers, and drivers—and go.

Students at Thornton Academy designed and created Valentine’s Day cards that were slipped into every meal parcel delivered Sunday to 350 residents of Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach. Photo by Tammy Wells

It was the second community meal of this winter season – the first was just before the Christmas holidays, said Jean Saunders of Age Friendly Saco. In all, Saunders said, 22 people volunteered to deliver the meals, starting at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Age Friendly Saco first partnered with the Ferry Beach Retreat & Conference Center to provide a delivered meal during the height of the pandemic, when gathering was not possible and some regular annual events could not take place.

Cathy Stackpole, manager of the Ferry Beach Retreat & Conference Center, said the organization marks its 120th anniversary in 2022 and began working with Age Friendly Saco a few years ago.

“Ferry Beach is becoming more and more connected to the community,” Stackpole said, and is expanding its previous summer lineup to a year-long presence. She said the organization donated her space and chef Jason Gregoire volunteered his time to prepare the meal.

The community meal was supported by Robin’s Confections and Jim Godbout Plumbing and Heating, Saco & Biddeford Savings, Bangor Savings Bank, Kennebunk Savings, Saco Bay Rotary, Rotary Club of Biddeford-Saco, Ferry Beach Retreat & Conference Center and Age Friendly Saco, as well as with Thornton Academy’s student card designers and a host of other volunteers.

Meals were distributed to residents of Saco, Old Orchard Beach and Biddeford — to anyone who signed up, Saunders said.

The assembly and packing of the meal went smoothly.

Chicken Parmesan? Well, Grégoire doesn’t hand out his recipe, he said with a smile, but as he helped others portion and pack the meals, he said the event was “really nice.”

Phil Hatch of the Saco Bay Rotary Club said the organization works well with Age Friendly Saco.

“Jean reaches out and we try to help when we can,” he said.

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