Cooperative dinner makes for special Thanksgiving at ‘Café Sheila’


Turkey, trimmings and togetherness were the ingredients for an unusual and cooperative Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday inside Café Sheila in Warwick Neck.

There was an extraordinary table setting for eight people that featured a purple-colored designer linen tablecloth, pewter candle holders with pink candles, French vanilla white china dishware, sterling silverware, linen napkins as well as crystal wine and water glasses.

“What an elegant setting,” said Jean Walsh walking into Café Sheila. “This is absolutely beautiful.”

Although there’s really no such place as Café Sheila in Warwick Neck, that’s what Sheila Sousa transformed the Community Room at Saint Elizabeth Terrace into for Thursday’s unique Thanksgiving celebration.

All of this, as well as a multi-course dinner, was cleverly coordinated by Sousa and Walsh, whose main mission was to make sure no terrace resident would go without a Thanksgiving dinner and would not be alone on this family-oriented holiday.

But how did all of this come about, especially since the terrace is a 34-unit, one-bedroom senior housing complex that has been open less than two years?

“It started out that just my sister [Mary Gil] and her daughter Allison and I were going to have Thanksgiving dinner here,” Sousa explained. “Then we heard Jean wasn’t going out so we decided to find out if anyone else would be here alone and put out an invitation.”

But even the invitation wasn’t the norm.

It read, in part: “If you are not dining out on Thanksgiving Day, you are invited to dine in with some of your neighbors at a cooperative dinner. We are planning a traditional feast to which each guest contributes.”

The invitation, or sign-up sheet, then listed the date, time, RSVP and fact that each resident could invite an additional guest if he or she so desired. There was also a listing of what was needed for the dinner.

“I want to emphasize that this was a cooperative effort,” said Sousa. “Once we decided upon a menu, everybody did something and we all brought different dishes to the table.”

Sousa and her sister Mary purchased and prepared the turkey. Mary Gill made mashed potatoes, stuffing, and a cake and brought the wine. Sousa made two kinds of vegetables, one being cauliflower quiche and spinach casserole, a cheesecake and floral centerpiece and also used her personal settings for the table.

Walsh made meat stuffing, gravy, squash, a relish tray and cranberry sauce, and Maggie Williams, who doubles as a chef and minister, made collared greens, turnips and raised rolls from scratch, which Sousa said were “absolutely delicious.”

Flora Papa, who is believed to be the Terrace’s elder stateswoman, made her special creamed onions, turnips and carrots while Jill Mancini brought rolls, pastries and a pumpkin pie. Charlie Ribidou contributed various beverages.

Perhaps an example of just how unique and special Sousa made the meal came during the first course.

“She’s unbelievable … so talented,” Walsh said of Sousa, as she sampled the green grapes and fresh pineapple that were placed on a bed of lettuce with scoops of raspberry sherbet. “You’d never get this kind of elegance anywhere!”

The acts of caring didn’t end with the day’s dinner guests.

Earl Sandin, the maintenance man at Saint Elizabeth Terrace, and his wife gave what Sousa called a “delicious pumpkin roll” while residents Don and Joanne Schattle, who is also known as a rather creative cook, sent along glazed-topped pumpkin muffins.

“We’ve always been active in big groups. We really enjoy doing these sorts of things. But this wasn’t about me; it was a cooperative effort and we all had a great time,” Sousa said.

The day was an example of people caring and sharing with one another to make sure everyone could enjoy turkey, trimmings and togetherness in a perfect setting at Café Sheila in Warwick Neck.


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