By Jennifer L. Warren
BEACON – Desiree Sweat arrived Saturday afternoon at the VFW Hall, on 413 Main Street in Beacon, a good 30 minutes before its doors opened. After all, she was very excited to embrace what lied inside.
Awaiting Sweat, along with many others, was a savory, complete Thanksgiving meal, with all the trimmings, made and served with plenty of care and love. For over 30 years, the Hebron Lodge #48 Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons have been holding their Annual Thanksgiving Dinner. Receiving generous food donations from Beacon’s Key Foods, Wappinger’s Hannafords and Fishkill’s Shop Rite, Hebron Lodge members set to work lovingly preparing and distributing the hearty and much appreciated meals to those in need. An increasingly popular community event, the holiday tradition is discussed by residents throughout the year.
“I found out about today through my mom who goes to Springfield Baptist Church, and I was immediately excited to come here,” said a smiling Sweat as she tried to patiently wait in line at the VFW Hall. “I’m ready to eat, and am so very grateful they are doing this for us.”
About half of the meal recipients came directly to the hall, picking up their holiday “takeout” meals, complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy, rolls and dessert; while others from senior and home-bound housing had their meals delivered to them. In total, approximately 200 Beacon community members enjoyed hot, holiday dinners, along with season blessings, lively chatter and plenty of smiles from mason members. The day’s record numbers, combined with the looks on recipient’s faces and overall vibe of giving, created a special, warm scene as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.
“Today is one of many events we do throughout the year to network with the community, especially during the holiday season; this year is extra special, as it looks to be an all-time record turnout, really showing the need to feed the less fortunate in the Beacon community,” said Senior Warden Aubrey Mitchell. “The people are very appreciative, and they even ask us each year ahead of time if we are going to have it.”
Another mason member, Pastmaster Charlie Whitted, has been helping serve up Thanksgiving meals for the community since 1985. This year, Whitted, along with his wife, prepared all of the food for over 200 dinners. Requiring long hours and a great deal of work, the preparation “payoff” of seeing the appreciation in the eyes and hearing the words of thankfulness from recipients was priceless.
“I think it’s a really great thing that we do for the community that they very much enjoy,” said Whitted. “It’s also very nice to work along with the brothers here, serving these meals today.”
As the initial, main rush of meal distribution wound down at the VFW Hall, members bonded with one another, as they awaited for others to pick up the remaining takeout holiday meals. Among the second phase was long-time Beacon resident, Mary Poppins, “The Spoon Player,” a local musician. Asking if she could eat her meal inside the Hall, Poppins was joyful to enjoy the homemade food while interacting with the masons.
“This meal is absolutely delicious- all of it,” exclaimed Poppins. “It’s a real blessing, and I so much appreciate what these men do for this community with their caring hearts for others.”
The Lodge will continue those blessings as the Christmas holiday approaches next month when they will host their Annual Toy Giveaway for children in need in the City of Beacon.
Additionally, other scheduled events, aimed at helping and connecting the community, are slated on their 2020 calendars.