WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — They are used to serving and protecting. This Saturday, they will serve and feed.
Waterbury police officers are spending this week cooking and preparing 1,000 traditional Thanksgiving meals that they will give away to families — no questions asked — in a drive-through dinner giveaway Saturday from 11 am – 4 pm in the parking lot of the Police Activity League (PAL) Rec Center on 64 Division Street.
The meals will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each year, the department holds a big community Thanksgiving dinner feast inside the gym. But with COVID-19 still around, they came up with an alternate plan to keep people safe.
“In comparison to years past, we’ve had 800 to 1,000 people inside our gymnasium,” said Sgt. Ryan Bessette, a Waterbury PAL coordinator. “Under the (CDC) guidelines this year, that’s not safe for anybody. We’re going to do the event outdoors. We’re going to have cones set up in a drive-thru format. Individuals attending will not need to leave their cars and they’ll be given pre-packaged containers with their meal ready to go.”
Much of the food was donated by individuals and businesses. A company in Massachusetts donated 1,000 apple pies.
Inside the kitchen at the PAL Rec Center on Thursday, an assembly line of PAL officers cutting turkey, stirring gravy, and scooping mac and cheese into containers to prep the meals for Saturday’s main event.
“This just means a lot to me,” said Officer Querino Maia, who was on turkey patrol today. “Just (to know) the families that cannot afford to have a nice, decent Thanksgiving meal — I mean, it means so much.”
Officer Maia also saying it means a little more this year, not only because of the pandemic but also because of the turmoil involving police nationally in 2020.
The officers in the kitchen Thursday hoping their efforts send a message.
“I know a lot of towns don’t do what we’re doing and everybody that’s doing it (here), we enjoy it,” said Officer Maia.