Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More than a meal: Masons’ Thanksgiving Dinner Tradition

For each of the last 25 years, Reedsburg's senior citizens have had a place to gather for fellowship and a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner, thanks to some generous volunteers and a large helping of human kindness.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the annual senior citizens' Thanksgiving dinner, sponsored by the Masons and the Order of the Eastern Star. Every year since 1986, volunteers have served Thanksgiving meals to more than 100 people each year - for free.
The tradition is based on another born in 1975, when Roosevelt "Rosey" Harden began feeding the elderly and less fortunate out of his diner, Rosey's Dream. When Harden closed the diner in 1985, the Masons took over host duties for the traditional meal and haven't looked back.
"We've been going proud and strong ever since," Past Masonic Master Greg Georgeson said Tuesday. "I don't know if there has been any time since when we've thought of not putting it on."
The dinner, held at Reedsburg United Methodist Church, 833 Third St., feeds 100 to 150 people every year, current Lodge Master Douglas Bentley said. He expects 130 to 140 people to attend this year, enjoying a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, ham, potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and all the trimmings - topped off by homemade pies donated by cooks across Sauk County.
In addition to the sit-down dinner at the church, volunteers deliver about 40 meals to those unable to leave their homes.
For many Masons and other area residents, the meal has become part of their Thanksgiving tradition.
"There are definitely people who come back every year," Bentley said. "Not only the guests that come back, but the volunteers that couldn't imagine a Thanksgiving without going."
Georgeson, who has been involved in the Thanksgiving event for 22 years, said that while the dinners have changed a little over the years, what hasn't changed is the fellowship. He said he remembers serving one woman who told him stories about life in Reedsburg before the advent of the automobile - when traveling from town to town involved much more than a simple 20-minute car ride.
"We say it is a charitable contribution from the Masons to the people of Reedsburg, but in actuality it's a joy and a treat for those of us who are privileged enough to listen to these people's stories and find out where we came from," Georgeson said.
He added that although the dinner primarily is for senior citizens, anyone who needs a free meal is welcome and will be fed free of charge.
"We don't turn anyone away," Georgeson said. "If you come to eat, you'll eat."

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