AUBURN, Mass. – Before Auburn friends and families sit around the Thanksgiving table on Thursday, the public is invited to a Community Thanksgiving Service at Bethel Lutheran Church on Wednesday night as the Riley Award is presented.
Auburn's annual ecumenical Thanksgiving service will take place at 7:30 p.m. at 90 Bryn Mawr Ave. The church is asking attendees to bring nonperishable food items, and a monetary offering also will be taken. Both collections benefit Auburn Youth and Family Services and Kateri Kitchen.
During the service, the Rev. John Gee, pastor of North American Martyrs Church in Auburn, will receive the John E. and Ethel E. Riley Outstanding Citizenship Award. The Riley Award Committee voted unanimously this month for Gee, who has been a pastor in Auburn for 22 years, serving in other parishes for a total of 59 years.
The award is given to an outstanding citizen who has made life for Auburn residents better.
“There are so few places to have events now, and so many nonprofits that are looking to raise funds, and North American Martyrs has the most fabulous kitchen,” said Selectmen Chair Doreen Goodrich, who is on the award committee. “And they don’t charge a fee when the nonprofits are having events. He’s all about community and has done so much for Auburn.”
Gee was nominated by Ed and Eleanor Binnall, Robert and Carol Breault, and Patricia Bukoski.
“During his time in Auburn, the parish has grown considerably in size,” the Binnalls wrote in their nomination letter. “The church now sponsors many community and religious activities. On July 14, a new 30-unit housing project for low-income elder citizens was dedicated on the church property.
“In addition, through the efforts of Father Gee, a successful food service program was opened in the lower back of the church serving the Auburn community,” they added.
The John E. and Ethel E. Riley Outstanding Citizenship Award was created in 1976 to honor the Rileys for their contribution to serving and making life for Auburn citizens better. John Riley served as Auburn town clerk from 1922 to 1952, and Ethel Riley served as an assistant for many years.
There was money donated that is now held by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation. The interest earned is given to the recipient chosen each year.
The Community Thanksgiving Service will be followed by a fellowship hour.