When Antonio Vidinha met Priscilla Tobey at Dunkin’ Donuts, it was love at first sight.
“I am thankful to have my fiancée and for her to be in my life,” said Vidinha, holding Tobey’s hand.
His other hand, atop a decorated table, had a fork of turkey in it as the two celebrated their first Thanksgiving as a couple.
Vidinha, 55, and Tobey, 31, both from Peabody, were two of hundreds to celebrate Thanksgiving Thursday at the Citizen’s Inn Haven for Hunger in Peabody.
“I am thankful to come and eat here so we don’t have to do any meal prep,” explained Tobey. “We are low income and it is easier to do it this way.”
Citizen’s Inn Haven for Hunger was one of many places across the North Shore where organizations and volunteers came together to serve community members a free, quality hot meal, stuffing and all.
“We are like one big family here,” said program director Kate Benashski. “It is so heartwarming that there is this kind of community.”
Benashski explained that family extends beyond the city, as Salem’s Bambolina restaurant sent 10 of their staff to assist the organization in their holiday operations.
“They helped with everything so there wasn’t a mad rush, and we could really enjoy spending time with the guests today,” said Benashski.
Other organizations that provided free meals this Thanksgiving included Ma Dukes and Friends in Middleton and Lifebridge shelter, The Moose, and The Derby restaurant in Salem.
For The Derby, the newly renovated and renamed tavern, serving a free, hot Thanksgiving meal is a tradition they hope to continue for a very long time.
“We wanted to keep the tradition going and help out the community,” said chef Adam Kopplin. “To bring in lots of locals and be able to basically help anyone who may be in need, not just the homeless.”
Although The Derby, formerly known as the Tavern in the Square, was closed last Thanksgiving for renovations, they were eager on Thursday to be serving the community once again.
“Thanksgiving is about family and being with the people that you love,” said manger Doug Burke. “These guys are my family.”
For this upcoming year, the restaurant’s partners Kopplin, Burke, and Mark Morris are focusing on charities.
“We want to make sure that we are known as not trying to profit off of these things but trying to give back,” Burke said.
Thursday’s Thanksgiving meal also inspired Kevin Herrera, a server at The Derby.
“This is a tradition that I want to carry on when I have a family. I want to be able to use Thanksgiving dinner to serve friends and family,” said the 23-year-old Salem resident, spreading his arms out wide. “I am thinking big.”
Five booths away, volunteer Candace Harewood, born and raised in Salem, was instilling that same dream to her 6-year-old daughter, Emelia.
“We do a lot with Salem,” said Harewood. “I want her to grow up loving where she lives. I want her to know that if she ever leaves she always be welcomed back here.”
Emelia’s favorite part about Salem is the community.
“There is so much that we can do here,” said Emelia.
“You need to love your community,” Harewood added. “This is our family.”
Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-338-2527 or email@example.com.