CONTINENTAL – Members of Christ United Methodist will host a long-standing tradition in their community this Saturday evening.
Members of the church have been offering a Thanksgiving dinner for area residents for over 80 years. They expect to serve 800 to 1,000 meals including carry-outs this weekend.
“We start preparing for the meal in late September or early October,” said chairman Deloris Wilson. She said early preparations include removing corn from the cob from corn that is often donated, drying bread for dressing, and has even including making homemade applesauce in the past.
The turkey dinners were started by women of the church, formerly Christ United Brethren, as a way to help pay off debt on their new church. The 1929 supper netted $40. Women sold tickets door-to-door for $.50 a piece. The meal is now available for a free-will donation.
When the turkey dinners were first prepared slaughtering the turkeys was a joint project. The men did the chopping and the women held the gobblers’ legs, according to an early history of the church. There was one year when there was no men available, so a “Mrs. Edna Miller manipulated the hatched.” Food was cooked on a coal stove. Turkeys were often cut in half to hasten the roasting process.
Although the working conditions have changed the original menu still remains the same, shredded turkey and dressing mashed potatoes and gravy, a vegetable, cranberry-orange salad, slaw, apple sauce, relish tray, pie and coffee.
“Now we purchase our turkeys at the supermarket,” Wilson said.
Joan Wilson, another volunteer, said they purchase about 650 pounds of turkey for the event. “The school lets us use their freezer for awhile,” Joan said.
The women used to grind their own cranberries for the cranberry-orange salad, but said this is done at the store now.
“It was a messy job,” admitted Beulah VanDemark. “Our hands were so sticky after we did this.”
Another change is not having to peel the potatoes for the mashed potatoes. “I remember when we had garbage cans full of potatoes for the mashed potatoes,” said Wilson. “Now we use Potato Pearls which is much easier.”
Janice Bingley said she has been a volunteer for the Thanksgiving dinner nearly all her life.
“When I was a little girl I would pick up the dirty dishes and take them into the kitchen to be washed,” she said. “We all got to wear aprons at the time.” She said she has been helping with the meals for nearly 65 years.
Joan Wilson said she has been volunteering for 30 years “We are fortunate that we have
a shed with plugs where they can keep some of the crock pots for the food,” she said.
Durant Enterprises, owned by JoAnn and the late Ray Prowant along with Bill and Anissa Prowant, also donates a trailer for the carry-out service.
The gravy is made the night before in five gallon buckets. Vandemark is responsible on Saturday to make sure all the gravy is heated up.
It takes approximately 100 loaves of bread to make the dressing.
“Everyone knows there job,” said Wilson. “It makes being the chairman easier. Many of these women have been doing the same job for many years.”
In past years, although serving did not begin until 4 p.m., people began lining up at 3 p.m.
“I really enjoy the fellowship,” said Nancy Turnker, another volunteer.
Sherry Winkle, another member of the church, said she is glad the tradition continues in their community.
“There are so few traditions that keep going,” she said. “I believe there are very few things, except for a few buildings, that have continued in this community for over 80 years.”
All of the volunteers said they most enjoy the sense of community the meal brings to the season.