It is a Thanksgiving tradition at Soleil and Suns Bakery: helping families in need. Every year, the Woodstock bakery raffles off a free Thanksgiving meal to someone in the community.
"I have been doing it since I have been in business," said William Beausoleil, owner of Soleil and Suns Bakery.
This year, the need doubled. When Beausoleil announced he would be raffling off a free meal again, more than 100 local names were entered into the drawing.
"The response was just huge," said Beausoleil. "And you are thinking 'am I going to have enough to help everyone in this jar?'”
Beausoleil's worries were eased when donations started pouring in to the bakery. Through social media, community members learned of the lengthy list of people in need. Neighbors started calling the bakery and donating over the phone, walking cash donations into the store and even sending Beausoleil money online.
"I was just the messenger, really," said Beausoleil. "The community came together."
Sheilah Keane, who lives in Woodstock, was following the raffle on Facebook. Her husband is co-owner of a local business, Pith Products, in Ashford. When she learned of the raffle, Pith Products donated $600 to the bakery. She checked in a few days later and learned that there were still more names on the list than there were donations.
"And that is when we went down to Price Chopper and purchased 25 $100 gift certificates and brought them up to Bill," said Keane. "These are our brothers and sisters. This is our own backyard. We have to support one another through this right now."
Donations from community members continued to pour in. Instead of donating a Thanksgiving meal to one family, the bakery was able to raffle off 81 $100 gift cards to families in need.
“I can’t get over it still. I went home and I was just filled with joy," said Beausoleil. "The community is where it is at."
Brynn Turner was one of the recipients. She is not sure who entered her name to the raffle, but said she could not be more grateful. Turner had to leave her main job because of the pandemic.
"We can have thanksgiving now," said Turner. "I was so moved that someone would think about me and my girls because they are my everything."