GOULDSBORO — Gouldsboro residents last weekend did what they and many other towns like it do best: circle their arms around one of their own.
More than 300 people filled the Gouldsboro Community Center Feb. 6 for a spaghetti dinner to benefit Maureen Hall, a local resident and longtime town employee.
And there would have been many more at the tables if the parking lot and roadside had not already been choked with vehicles.
Many residents drove their vehicles up to the door, ran in with donations of money and/or cakes and pies, and then moved ahead to allow the next vehicle through.
Former Town Manager Eve Wilkinson worked with Hall for more than 20 years, first when Hall was a part-time employee in the assessor’s office and later when Hall served as office supervisor and deputy town clerk and deputy registrar.
Hall resigned recently for medical reasons.
Wilkinson said the fundraising community dinners are intended to help the person out financially — this benefit raised nearly $7,000 — but they are about much more than that.
“I think they’re about moral support,” Wilkinson said. “Maureen is one in a million when it comes to helping people. I can’t remember her ever saying no. In fact, she volunteers before you even ask her. She’s a good woman.”
Hall left her position at the town office Aug. 25 because of medical issues. She suffered a stroke in 2009 and is going to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to pinpoint the cause of her current neurological difficulties.
She said she was overwhelmed by the turnout Feb. 6, as was her husband, Michael. At one point the crowd sang Happy Birthday to Hall, who was celebrating that event the following day.
“I thought maybe 100 people would come, but my God,” Hall said of the numbers who arrived. “It’s a great community to live in.”
Janet Michaud, a member of the Budget and Solid Waste Committees, said the display of affection was why she moved to Gouldsboro in 1996.
“It’s about the community coming together in a magnificent show of love and support,” Michaud said.
Mark Sobczak of Prospect Harbor took donations at the door and said by evening’s end 307 men, women and children had arrived for the dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, salad, garlic bread and a variety of desserts.
“Some stayed for dinner, others could not because there was no parking,” he said. “There were those who just donated and those wanting to see Maureen.”
“The first thing people asked as they came in is: ‘Is Maureen here? Is Maureen here?” he said as testimony to the community’s fondness for Hall.
Sobczak said the funds are intended to help Hall with travel and lodging expenses when she seeks a further diagnosis in Boston.
“Her husband, Mike, was teary-eyed for all the support,” Sobczak said. “He mentioned there were some people whom they had not seen in over 20 years.”
He said the donations at the door were often $20, $50 and $100 bills. The 4-6 p.m. event also included a Chinese auction and 50/50 raffle.
The food was an undertaking unto itself with many hands making not-so-light work.
The two principal cooks were Marilee Hichens and Donna Harmon, who put together 76 pounds of spaghetti, at least 800 meatballs along with mountains of garlic bread and salad.
Hichens said they had a lot of help with the food and Chinese auction from employees at the town office; donations of money, food and assistance from the Prospect Harbor Methodist Church, where Hall and her husband are members; and help from Ashley Hall, Maureen’s daughter-in-law, and another relative, Katie Clough.
Despite the large crowd there were ample leftovers, which were taken to the food pantry.
When asked how they kept the pasta from becoming mushy when cooked ahead of time and in such volume, Hichens said: “We did a lot of research online. Donna and I got together the day of the snowstorm and we cooked the spaghetti al dente, put olive oil in it, and then blanched it that night real quick. It worked out beautifully.”