When Help Outpaces the Need

‘I want to do something,’ people say, ‘to give back’
The community Thanksgiving dinner at the East Hampton Presbyterian Church brings together many people throughout East Hampton. Morgan McGivern

Kristy LaMonda of the East Hampton Presbyterian Church has been helping with her congregation’s annual community Thanksgiving dinner most of her adult life — first as a volunteer and, more recently, as an organizer of the event. One of the realizations that have struck her over the years is how there are a lot of ways to feed people, whether it’s filling their stomachs with food or warming their hearts with fellowship or providing volunteer opportunities to make somebody else’s holiday special.

“We have people come to us for all different reasons,” Ms. LaMonda said this week, “and what I’ve found is the need people feel to volunteer is almost bigger than the needs of the people who need the food sometimes.”

“People come to us and say, ‘I need to do something, I want to give back,’ or ‘I want to show my kids how to give back to the community.’ We have people who literally just show up the day of the dinner and say, ‘Put me to work. I want to do something.’ And I do my best.” 

This year’s dinner is scheduled to run from noon to 2:30 next Thursday at the church’s Session House, at 120 Main Street in East Hampton. The menu is traditional and straightforward: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing and green beans, home-cooked apple and pumpkin pies. 

Ms. LaMonda said the church is still willing to accept help making the food, serving the meal, or pitching in with the cleanup. Volunteers needn’t be church members to take part. People who contribute food have been asked to buy it, cook it at home, and coordinate with Ms. LaMonda about how to take it to the church building. Workers there will warm it and prepare it to be served.

“The dinner is not a need-based type of thing, per se, because although we might provide food for someone that doesn’t have food, more importantly what we’re trying to do is provide an opportunity for people to come together and find fellowship,” Ms. LaMonda said. “We do have people from the senior center, people from St. Michael’s and Windmill Village. We also have people that just drop in and say, ‘Hi, I was visiting and didn’t have anyplace else to go.’ Or maybe they’re working and they say, ‘My family is away, and I didn’t want to be alone.’ ”

Because the Meals on Wheels kitchen here is closed on Thanksgiving Day, the East Hampton Presbyterian Church fills that gap, too, providing meals for delivery to people who can’t make it to the community dinner. All told, Ms. LaMonda said, the church served about 170 meals a year ago.

“The majority of the food is still provided by members of our congregation, but we’re looking to expand that out,” she said.

To participate in the dinner, Kristy LaMonda can be emailed at kewlamonda@optonline.net, or called or texted at 631-374-8375. To make a reservation for seating or takeout, the church office can be called at 631-324-0711 through Tuesday.