AIKEN - At 94, Betty Broderick has eaten turkey and trimmings more times than she can count. But the food always tastes better when she has the traditional Thanksgiving goodies at Sandra Croy's turn-of-the-century treasure home, where the dining room is filled with oil paintings lighted by a chandelier and china older than she is.
Tuesday was no different.
For days, Mrs. Broderick had talked about dining at Sandhurst Estates for an early Thanksgiving.
And for days she fussed over what to wear. She finally settled on a turquoise dress and black pumps.
It's not often she gets dolled up for a sit-down dinner in the dining hall of Trinity Lutheran Homes, where she's been since the elderly care facility opened three years ago. The elegant dinner every year at Ms. Croy's bed-and-breakfast is special.
For Mrs. Broderick and six other women - all in their mid-70s to early 90s - who ate there Tuesday, the homemade meal is the only Thanksgiving lunch they'll get except for one served cafeteria-style at the home.
But the spread prepared in Ms. Croy's kitchen was made from heirloom recipes passed down from her mother and grandmother - much like the silver and china her guests used. There were family memories blended into the turkey, sausage dressing, creamy potatoes, cranberry sauce and poundcake with strawberry preserves drizzled on top.
"Coming here is like going to a fancy restaurant that has all the comforts of home," Helen Axelburg said.
It's home on a grand scale. Sandhurst was built in 1883, and 90 construction workers helping build Savannah River Site once lived there. It's furnished with English antiques, claw-footed bathtubs and Oriental and Persian rugs. And it is adorned with 25-foot Corinthian columns and cloaked by ancient oaks and a canopy of magnolias.
"What's not to love about this house?" Mrs. Broderick asked. "Just look at it."
Ms. Croy, retired from New York's Chase Manhattan Bank, started serving Thanksgiving lunch for residents of Trinity Lutheran Homes three years ago "to give them an opportunity to do something different," she said.
Before her father died, she had trouble finding things for him to do when he lived in a local nursing home. To vary his routine, Ms. Croy said she took him to antique shops and Aiken's historical hot spots when the weather was right.
After her father died, she opened her home - and heart - to Trinity Lutheran Homes. And since then, the residents have enjoyed high teas and picnics.
On Tuesday, the ladies already were planning their return to the five -acre estate, off Whiskey Road, to see the house decorated for Christmas.
"I know they love coming here, but I love having them even more," Ms. Croy said.
Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895.