The aroma of turkey is filling kitchens across Massachusetts Thursday morning. But many ovens in the Merrimack Valley are empty because homes don’t have natural gas.
With the region still recovering from the pipeline disaster in September, a local restaurant chain has been roasting and baking almost around the clock this week to feed some 23,000 people on Thanksgiving.
Tuscan Brands is cooking almost 50,000 pounds of turkey for people who can't prepare their own. Columbia Gas hired Tuscan to feed customers in need.
Columbia has restored service to about two-thirds of affected homes in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. But repairs haven't come in time for people like Stephanie Gonzalez to make a holiday meal.
"Our stove still hasn't been replaced, so we can't cook," the Lawrence resident said. "And the hot water, they're working on. It sucks."
The offer of a free Thanksgiving meal may be little consolation for people who would rather cook family recipes in their own kitchens.
The goal for Tuscan founder Joe Faro is to at least prepare a menu that would make Grandma proud. He is a Lawrence native. He knows the holidays can be difficult, at baseline, in one of the state's poorest cities.
"There are some poverty issues in Lawrence to begin with, and this is a hardship on top of that," Faro said. "This is devastating. You know, this has been really, really tough."
Faro and his team are preparing meals for pick up on Thanksgiving morning. There are two community buffets in Lawrence, too.
The level of hardship is somewhat lower in more affluent Andover. Nevertheless, the senior center there is expecting about 200 people for Thanksgiving dinner.
The center's food services director, Frank Melendez, said the community's generosity has been overwhelming.
"Some of the farms around the area have reached [out] to us and say, 'Do you need potatoes or do you need vegetables?'" Melendez said. "The turkeys get donated. Some local restaurants, too: They'll ask me, 'Hey, you know, I know you're doing this but can we do the mashed potatoes?' or 'Can we do the vegetables?'"
Dinner at a senior center — or from a box — is not how most people would choose to spend the holiday. But, at least the food will be good.
This segment aired on November 22, 2018.
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