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Thanksgiving dinner for seniors to be held tonight

By Jessica Scarpati
Posted Nov 19, 2008 @ 03:04 AM


The town's men and women in blue bring new meaning to the credo "protect and serve."
For two hours tonight, a group of Bridgewater police officers will trade their sirens for stuffing and sweet potatoes, which they will serve as part of a Thanksgiving meal for seniors in need.
Officers' families and volunteers from the Citizens Police Academy will also moonlight as waiters and waitresses in the annual tradition, started by Police Chief George K. Gurley nine years ago to build a rapport between public safety agencies and senior citizens.
"The seniors are getting a nice Thanksgiving meal, but they're also getting to know our officers," said Lt. Michael Bois, who helps organize the event.
"If (seniors) feel they know somebody, they feel they can call and ask for them," Bois said. "It's not just 'a police car' going by anymore."
Seniors must sign up in advance for the dinner, and can no longer register; the 160 slots filled within days of its announcement, organizers said.
In addition to fostering a sense of community and goodwill, the event also fills a socio-economic need. The free meal comes from food donated and prepared by Bridgewater State College.
Those donations become even more welcome as the slumping economy pinches the budgets of families and social services.
"Obviously, the economy is affecting the population that we're dealing with," said Lorraine Carrozza, director of the Bridgewater Office of Elder Affairs.
Although fuel prices are on the decline, food prices have not come down, making the classic Thanksgiving dinner more expensive, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The average Thanksgiving dinner is expected to cost $44.61 this year, a $2.35 increase from last year, according to the group.But when adjusted for inflation, this year's average cost is equal to $20.65 in 1988 dollars. In 1988, the bureau calculated the average Thanksgiving at $26.61.The price of a 16-pound turkey, at $19.09, is most to blame for this year's rising cost, going up $1.46 from 2007, the bureau stated. Despite the obvious bonus of a free meal, Carrozza said those who come to the Bridgewater Senior Center for the event see the dinner more as a chance to socialize.
"It's great just watching all of the faces and all of the smiles, and listening to the conversations," she said. "They don't feel like it's a charity-type event. They kind of feel like it's a get-together."
Volunteering at the dinner is just as rewarding for the officers, Bois said.
"There are some who don't want to do it at first, but after they do it one year, they're the first ones signing their name next year," he said.
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