In recent days, an estimated 1,000 local seniors have settled down to festive holiday meals thanks to the planning and work of the Howard County Office on Aging and an army of able volunteers.
"This program is only made possible -- and so beautiful -- because of the volunteers," said Judi Bard, a program specialist with the Office on Aging and a veteran of the county's traditional Thanksgiving feasts.
"This was our 16th year," Bard said. "I've been there for all of them."
"Some things have improved," she said. "We've become more efficient."
The two meals served Nov. 15 at the Ten Oaks Ballroom and Conference Center in Clarksville drew a total of 700. A third on Sunday at the Hilton Columbia, prepared by the Columbia Patuxent Rotary Club with help from junior members of the service club from Hammond High School, drew 300. The guests came from senior centers and programs across the county.
Rotarian Blaine Milner said one former member of his club, a professional chef who had moved to New Jersey, came back to help with the cooking.
"We had another great event," Milner said. "They keep getting better, I swear."
Volunteers also included students from Burleigh Manor and Harper's Choice middle schools; Atholton and River Hill high schools; and members of the Longfellow Garden Club.
Bard said volunteers not only prepared and served the dinners but also set the tables and supplied festive centerpieces. The menu featured turkey, gravy and all the trimmings -- mashed potatoes and homemade dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce and for dessert, carrot cake.
"I'm exhausted," Bard said Monday. But thanks to all the help, she said, "every year it gets easier and easier."