69th Annual Turkey Dinner
These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoppoe and the bat. Leviticus 11:13-19
The first turkey dinner took place in 1948 when a group of church members thought it would be a good way to raise much needed funds for church repairs. The Great Depression and World War I delayed maintenance and a dwindling congregation had left the church strapped for cash. Lifetime church member, now since passed, Mary Martha Emmert, recalled that "someone got the brainstorm to do some fundraising with a dinner, strictly for men, celebrating George Washington's birthday."
The idea made historical sense as the Methodist Men had been gathering every year since 1909 for a meal in the Simpson Room to celebrate the President's birthdays in February. This being the 40's, very few men knew their way around a kitchen. The turkeys were stuffed and baked at the old Kleindienst Bakery on Beaver Street and then brought to the church to be carved.
No records exist indicating how many men attended that first dinner in 1948 or how much money was raised, but it was successful enough that the members decided to make it an annual event. Within five years, the men had grown tired of coordinating the effort on their own, so they asked for assistance from the wives, daughters, and sisters. Eventually, everyone in the congregation played some part in pulling the meal together.
This meal is a wonderful time of fellowship for the community who are more than happy to get out of their houses and break bread in the warmth of our Simpson room sharing a delicious meal prepared with love. There are two seating times, 5:00 to 6:00 pm and 6:00 to 7:00 pm. In 1998, takeout dinners were added to the event and are served from 3:30 to 6:30 pm.
Nearly 90 members of the congregation work together over the course of three days to prepare over 500 pounds of turkey, tear up 100 loaves of bread for stuffing, peel and mash 200 pounds of potatoes, and make gallons of gravy. The meal includes turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, cole slaw, and your choice of three pies, including sugar-free for diabetics. After 69 years, this dinner prep is down to a science where duties are passed down from one older member to younger members. In 1992, church member Paul Collier recalls being taught how to use the potato peeling machine by Pete Cernansky, and since 2013, Michael Swaney has taken the reins from Paul Collier.
Some memories and thoughts shared by long time members and once turkey dinner coordinators:
"I can remember when I was a little girl, my dad would write letters to local businesses asking for dinner donations such as bread, canned goods or cash."
"One night, we thought we were running out of stuffing! We found a missing pan that was leftover in the oven, way back."
"The Methodists don't put out a meal; they put out a feast."
The dinner is now coordinated by Sandra Lane, but she does not do it alone; the Turkey Dinner team consists of two-dozen leaders heading up areas from turkey prep to takeout and everything in between.
More help is always welcome, so if you would like to be a part of the Turkey Dinner team or want to purchase a dinner ticket, please reach out to Sandra Lane.
- Dinner date is February 16, 2017.
- There are two seating times: 5:00 and 6:00 pm.
- Tickets are $15, $6 for children up to age 10, and free for children under 4.
- Takeout meals are also available at one price of $15 and can be picked up from 3:30 to 6:30 pm on February 16.