For the ninth year in a row, Ashland firefighters cooked up a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and the works for more than 100 jovial elders at the Ashland Senior Center.

It’s always a cheery event, much anticipated for the excellent homemade food, most of it served to tables by the children of firefighters.

“It’s my first time here and I just love this,” said retired sociologist Mark Sanford, as he accepted a plate on Monday from Raquel Adams, daughter of Ashleigh Adams and Battalion Chief Kelly Burns. Sanford is a regular lunch-serving volunteer at the Center.

The festive event, started by then-Fire Chief John Karns, now interim city administrator, is intended not just to lift holiday spirits of the town’s elders, but to get them interfacing with fire-rescue workers who often see them only in emergency situations.

“It’s a good opportunity for interaction with a community that firefighters don’t see every day and we’re happy to support them in providing this great meal,” said Michael Black, manager of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, which oversees the Senior Center.

“It tastes wonderful and I’ve been looking forward to the turkey and ham for a month, plus you get to see all your friends,” said Robin Thompson, as he was served the meal by Berkeley Foss, daughter of Captain Justin Foss and Brooke Foss.

“The meal is warm and fresh and people who deliver it are real friendly and greet you happily,” he said. "It’s how I became aware of the value of the Senior Center."

His wife Evelyn noted, “It’s great to eat someone else’s cooking — and they’re all such nice people. They’ve helped us and when we had problems getting out of the house, Food and Friends (which operates out of the Senior Center) brought us lunch and dinner.”

The food, including green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy and egg nog, was cooked and organized at Walker Elementary School by firefighters and their families, said Battalion Chief Dana Sallee.

As he coordinated the dishing up of plates, Fire Captain Marshall Rasor noted the event is open not just to seniors, but to anyone who wants or needs it.

“It was started as a way of reaching out and doing something for the community,” said Rasor. “We have the ability, it’s great fun and there’s such gratitude around it.”

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.