St. John Valley

Fort Kent doctor, community volunteers serve free meals at holiday banquet

FORT KENT, Maine — Two couples with 125 years of marriage between them enjoyed a double date outing at a special holiday banquet which a local doctor sponsored at Fort Kent Community High School on Saturday.

Dr. Shahriar Anoushfar, a surgeon at Northern Maine Medical Center, provided funds to serve 350 traditional turkey dinners to elderly community members and those in need.

Longtime friends Doris and Ida Clavet and Norman and Rinette Theriault, all of Fort Kent, attended the event together. The Clavets have been married for 62 years, and the Theriaults have been married for 63 years.

The couples have long enjoyed socializing with one another.

“We were going out together before we got married,” said Ida Clavet, who is 82 years old. “When we were younger we used to go dancing every weekend. We both have a family of five kids each.”

These opportunities to socialize have become less frequent as the couples have aged.

“We play [the card game] ‘Aggravation’ and then we go eat at the senior center,” Norman Theriault, 84, said.

The couples once enjoyed a wider social circle, according to Ida Clavet.

“At one point we were six couples getting together every week,” she said.

“But they’re all gone,” Norman Theriault added.

The Clavets and Theriaults were thrilled when they learned of the holiday banquet through some of their children who work at the medical center.

“The main thing for the elderly is to get out of the house to meet people; that’s worth a prescription,” Ida Clavet joked. “As our family is gone and married, it’s lonely for the adults at the house.”

The foursome said they enjoyed the banquet.

“Oh, the meal was good, very good,” Doris Clavet, 84, said.

“And we didn’t have to wash dishes,” Norman Theriault added with a smile.

The Clavets and Theriaults were among 75 people who enjoyed the banquet at the CHS cafeteria.

Volunteers delivered another 275 meals to St. John Valley residents who were unable to attend the event.

Anoushfar, who is originally from Maryland, has lived in Fort Kent with his wife, Bridget, and their two young children since March of this year.

The Anoushfars are friends with another Fort Kent couple, Tammy and A.J. Clavette.

Shahriar Anoushfar said that when he had the idea to host a free holiday banquet in Fort Kent he contacted the Clavettes. Tammy Clavette works as a family coach for the Aroostook County Action Program and her husband is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the Madawaska port of entry. Multiple Customs and Border Protection employees also volunteered at the event.

“I knew they had the resources to [help get the ball rolling]; Tammy and A.J. know everyone in town,” Anoushfar said.

When word got out that Anoushfar was sponsoring a holiday banquet to provide a meal for the elderly and those in need, more than 40 volunteers came forward to offer assistance with food preparation, serving, cleanup and even dinner music. Local bands Boomerang and The River Ukes donated their musical talents to entertain guests at the banquet.

“There was just an outpouring of people that called in,” Anoushfar said. “My phone was ringing at the hospital all the time; just a ton of people wanted to help and see what they could do.”

The medical center donated 10 of the turkeys that volunteers served at the banquet. Tammy Clavette contacted SAD 27 to arrange for the venue.

“That was key because this facility was a perfect fit for this whole thing,” Anoushfar said.

SAD 27 kitchen staff cooked up 18 of the 20 turkeys needed for the 350 meals, which was what their facility could manage, while medical center staffers cooked up the other two. The dinners included stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and other vegetables, rolls, and a variety of desserts.

The Aroostook County Action Program provided a table at the banquet with information about services the organization offers to those in need. The organization’s executive director, Jason Parent, a former Fort Kent resident, also joined in and helped serve meals at the banquet.

“I couldn’t think of a better thing to do on a Saturday before Christmas; it’s good to be back home today,” he said.

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