Easter Dinner at Second Baptist Church on April 8th

PhotoGrampie Bill with satisfied customers pose for a photo in front of his food trailer. (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette).

By Jarod Farn-Guillette

Seagulls cawing overhead and the smell of hotdogs are not an uncommon association, especially on a waterfront boardwalk in summer.  On a dreary cold March morning in Maine in a nondescript strip-mall parking lot, it's a refreshing break from the depressing and predicable weather we all know is coming: a tease of warmth, then cold as hell's bells. To anyone driving past Bell's IGA on North Street in Calais, a seasonal fixture for the past several years has been Grampie Bill's Place. Bill Gibson is a sign that the seasons are maybe changing, as a hotdog served out of a trailer-cum-hotdog stand. With a tell-all accent and the a glint in the eye, Grampie Bill serves up more than just something to eat, and what ever is on the menu comes with a heaping side of story. 

The interesting story of the day was his long time involvement and role organizing Thanksgiving dinners at Second Baptist Church in Calais, free of charge. Upon my approach of his trailer and giving a brief introduction, Bill went into full Grampie Bill mode. With a meandering style he recalled Thanksgiving dinners of thirty-five years ago that were organized and hosted by the folks at Second Baptist, always free of charge. A nearly twenty-eight year tradition that was enjoyed with success...“then nobody wanted to do it anymore.” With that in mind he spoke with his wife. “Geeze, I really miss those dinners. Do you think you and I could pull one off?” With that bit of nostalgia for community past he informed that the first ever dinner they planned and hosted in 2012 had over four-hundred in attendance. The following year's dinner proved to be a maelstrom, both emotionally and logistically. On the “real Blizzard in Maine, that Thanksgiving of 2013” Grampie Bill was hospitalized with Afib, and his wife Eileen was left alone to pull it off. Luckily for her and everyone else, the community joined together and volunteers from other churches in the area came together in the spirit of the holiday and put on another free dinner. With this success they continued hosting and providing free dinners “to anyone free of charge, even some from over the river...other churches.” With volunteers  and local business donating turkeys, food items and materials for the event and Grampie Bill purchasing the rest, the costs are covered by those willing and able to provide a donation, but it always and still remains free. With over forty-five turkeys roasted for the 2015 dinner, he claims his motivation for the hard work comes from providing a dinner for those in need. At the 2015 dinner they “had a lot of take-outs” delivering dinners to senior-citizens in the Methodist homes and residential facilities or to people living alone, unable to either make it out or afford a dinner. 

Last year's Thanksgiving was canceled due to recurring health issues, with Gibson stating he was hospitalized for three months. Thus this year's upcoming Easter dinner. With a full ham dinner, mashed potatoes and vegetables, guests can expect the same level of passion and care put into the event, just on a different day. If you're in the vicinity of Second Baptist Church on Church Street in Calais, April 8th, and are in need of food and community, stop by and say hi to Bill. There is sure to be more on the menu than food.