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Ann Grande, left, and volunteers from the First Congregational Church who helped put on the church's first annual Thanksgiving dinner.
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The Mariani sisters.
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Brian Grande works the ovens just before meal time.
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Volunteers prepping for dinner at about 8:30 Thursday morning.
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Time for turkey.

Adams First Congregational Holds First Annual Thanksgiving Dinner

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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Tom McGrory and his service dog Misty were among those having Thanksgiving dinner at the church.
ADAMS, Mass. — First Congregational Church hosted its first ever community Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. 
A small army of volunteers led by Adams native Brian Grande and his wife, Ann, fed dozens of residents from the area. It was classic New England Thanksgiving fare from turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce all the way to an apple pie dessert.
The Grandes have been involved with Meals on Wheels for several churches in the area and finally settled at First Congregational this past summer. They hope this is just the first of many thanksgivings they and the church can give back to the community.
"We got married 13 years ago, I was a cook in the military, we joined St. Mark's church at the time. We started Meals On Wheels there. Then it closed and it merged with St. John's church and became All Saints and we did Meals On Wheels there for about four or five years," Brian said. "We always wanted to do something like this. I've been all over the world, Ann has worked in nursing homes, we've seen poverty all over. All we wanted to do was give back."
Ann talked about how the meal came together and the immediate response they received.
"We asked Pastor Mike [Mullany] about it when we started coming to the church. We were drawn here by the clothing drive, the tag sale, just their whole outreach. This is where we wanted to be," she said. "We asked him about it and he said. 'It's all yours.' We got tons of volunteers helping us out and without them we couldn't have pulled it off." 
"We could not have even come close to doing this today without all the help," Brian added.
The Rev. Michael Mullany has been in Adams for 17 years after stints in Georgia, New Hampshire and Albany, N.Y. It was in Albany where he met his wife, DJ, who was the youth director at the church. They have been married for almost 30 years and have two children. She spoke of the church's mission.
"We are here to help the community as much as we can. That's our vision. We have our food pantry, clothing giveaway, every month from May to October we have a night for the kids. It gets them off the street, somewhere to go to just come and have fun," she said. "Our goal is to reach out to our community, show them God's love and that we're here for them. Brian and Ann came to my husband and wanted to start a Thanksgiving dinner so ... absolutely ... of course."
DJ Mullany is also a paraprofessional at Hoosac Valley Elementary School, which proved advantageous when it came time for volunteers. Several teachers and new Principal Becky Sawyer helped out all day. Sawyer saw it as a perfect opportunity to give back but also connect to any students who show up.
 "I told DJ, who is invaluable in our building, we were available to volunteer if she needed any help. My husband is a Mason so he is accustomed to doing stuff like this as well. Liz Alibozek is here along with some other second-grade teachers, Laurie Cantarella and her dad, Jim," she said.
"I think it's great that Becky is here and all the teachers because when the children come in they will recognize them and feel comfortable," Mullany said.
Guests ranged from locals like veteran Tom McGrory with his service dog Misty (the star of the day) to an entire squadron of Adams Ambulance EMTs (one of whom had been working around the clock) to longtime members of the church and some people just looking for a hot meal and some company.
Toward the end of the meal, a woman approached the Grandes with tears welling in her eyes to thank them and the volunteers.
"I just wanted to say thank you. I really had nowhere to go. We're friends now," she told them.
Church member Linda Mariani, who was busy in the kitchen, overheard the conversation and called for a group hug. 
"You come back and see us anytime," Mariani told her. "Sunday morning 10:15 is when we start and we have a fellowship after. Come and see us."
First Congregational Church is located at 42 Park St. and is always accepting food or clothing for the community. It will be distributing clothes at Hoosac Valley Elementary on Dec. 12 in conjunction with parent/teacher night and will have its regular Christmas Eve service on the 24.

Tags: holiday story,   thanksgiving,   

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Veterans Make Memorial Day Trek to War Memorial

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Retired Navy Petty Officer Cindy Lacoste speaks at Sunday's Memorial Day observance.
ADAMS, Mass. — North County American Legion members made their way to the summit of Mount Greylock early on Sunday morning for their 89th pilgrimage to the state's War Memorial.
Speaker Cindy Lacoste, a retired petty officer with 22 years serving in the Navy and current member of the Department of Massachusetts Executive Committee of Women of the American Legion, spoke and recalled memories of fallen veterans.
"Memorial Day brings up so many memories to me, and I'm sure it does to you," she said. "But in 2003, I was deployed to the Middle East not knowing if I was going to make it back home. So the fact that I did, obviously, I'm forever grateful, and I want to make sure that I never forget the stories of those that didn't come back."
She recalled the story of a young soldier, Cindy Bowden, who was a freshman attending the University of Connecticut during the Gulf War.
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