Thanksgiving at Good Will-Hinckley

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Multi-day celebrations of Thanksgiving have long been a part of the tradition at Good Will-Hinckley, even before the organization was actually founded by its namesake, George Walter Hinckley, in 1889.

Thanksgiving was first celebrated in America in 1621—the first in Maine happened, according to many, in 1607 in Popham.

At Good Will-Hinckley, Thanksgiving was a part of the family tradition, and it continued once George dedicated the Good Will Cottage on July 15, 1889. While there wasn’t any football on TV or parade balloons floating all the way down to Macy’s in New York City, there were always family around, games being played, and a good time being had by all. It truly was a time for reflection and a time for giving thanks.

For George Walter’s farm workers, the biggest night of the year was the night before Thanksgiving, when the entire community would assemble in Prescott Hall. During the festivities, a detailed report was read highlighting the farm’s production from the just-ended season, and townspeople would stand and cheer Superintendent Walter Hinckley and the farm workers. It was a mandatory, yearly celebration that grew from a small affair the first 20 years of Good Will-Hinckley into a three-night Thanksgiving celebration.

Harvesting the Good Will-Hinckley farm

More recently, the day after Thanksgiving has turned in a smorgasbord of shopping, standing in lines and spending money—Black Friday.

But for many years at GWH, the Friday following Thanksgiving was called “Forestry Day.” Early in the morning, after a good night’s sleep digesting the feast of the day before, a large group of boys would go into the woods to cut and burn brush, doing their best to clean up the woodlands. When they were done, they’d take the afternoon to prepare for that evening’s “Stunt Night,” which, by all accounts, was like a variety show. The forestry work would continue during December vacation, too.

More recently, Good Will-Hinckley celebrated Thanksgiving time with a Home Night event bringing back alumni and friends for a Thanksgiving dinner and a banner challenge between cottages. Each cottage would put together a presentation—skit, music, or poetry reading, for example—and the winner would get to display the banner all year. Everyone in the cottage also got a prize.

Unfortunately, because of COVID, we won’t be celebrating this way this year. However, we can have a Home Night in our minds, and we can reflect on past events and think about future celebrations.

Giving Thanks

At Good Will-Hinckley, we’re always appreciative of all our staff, our volunteers, the surrounding communities and everyone who’s supported us throughout the year. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc around the world, including here in Maine, we’re especially thankful for everybody’s generosity—with their time, their understanding and their contributions.

We’re thankful for Rick Dugal, area sales manager for Federal Distributors Inc., for his continuing support of our annual gala auction and for always stepping up when we’ve asked for something.

We’re thankful for the Good Will-Hinckley board members: Art Blank, Bob Dodge, Ben Ward, Diane Kindler, Steve Podgajny, John Morton, Nancy Gallinaro, Lou Hight, David Cyr, Steve Letourneau, Kevin Rice, Robert Sezak, Tom Edwards, Catherine Nadeau, Ryan Lane and Jevon Owens for all their support, dedication and leadership to support the mission and vision of our organization.

We’re thankful for the Good Will-Hinckley staff. Your passion is a quality that cannot be learned or taught. Thank you for being a big part of this organization. We’re truly blessed to be able to work by your side.

We’re thankful for all our donors, including our vendors who support our events and our efforts on campus. Thank you! We could not do what we do without you, and please know you are making a big difference in the lives of so many children in Maine.

We’re thankful for Sappi and its Somerset Mill. You’re not only our neighbor, but you’re also our friend and one of our biggest supporters. You have been our event sponsor over the years with the Festival of Trees and now with our Annual Gala. You have provided us with grants and volunteers and even some board members. Everyone at Good Will-Hinckley can’t thank you enough for all your support.

Good Will-Hinckley: Festival of Trees
Festival of Trees

We’re thankful for the Good Will-Hinckley Foundation Board—Dave Kimball, Donald Marden, Pat Zlotin, John Morton and Tom McAdam—for the many years of support, guidance, leadership and drive to help us complete our mission of providing a home and education and lending a helping hand to those in need.

And we’re thankful for our loyal alumni from near and far. It is a true privilege and honor that you have entrusted the staff and board to take care of your home.

Everyone here at Good Will-Hinckley sends our warmest wishes for a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving and a great start to the holiday season.