More than 300 free meals were handed out during the annual Thanksgiving dinner Thursday in Cortez.
Turkey and all the fixings were prepared in commercial kitchens at the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church and Mona Makes, a local caterer.
To serve the masses, cooks prepared 27 turkeys, 13 gallons of gravy, 59 pies, 200 pounds of potatoes, 400 homemade rolls, plus multiple pots of stuffing, cranberry sauce and green beans. New to the menu this year was a sweet potato crisp.
Dozens of volunteers worked an assembly line during the event. Containers were filled with food, then packaged for an orderly pickup station outside in the plaza.
“Overall we had 50 volunteers, we could not have done this without them,” said organizer Victoria Atkins.
“I like to volunteer because it gives the day more purpose and meaning,” said Raleigh Cato, who helped out along with members of her family. “This community is very welcoming.”
People where thankful when picking up meals. They took them home, or sat at nearby picnic tables at the church and Cortez Cultural Center.
“It’s fantastic, especially nice for guys like me who are not very good cooks. I’ve never tried cooking a turkey,” said Eric Bergman of Dove Creek.
Two local soup kitchens — Grace’s and Hopes — team up for the community dinner.
“It’s all done by donations, multiple teams working for weeks,” Atkins said. “It shows that even in the middle of a pandemic, we can still come together as a community and do something positive.”
“The crisp was so good, the turkey was moist, and the mashed potatoes had great flavor,” said Julie Bradeck ,who drove over from Mancos and returned after her meal to compliment the cooks.
Meals were packaged to-go for pickup at the church or were delivered. The pandemic prevented the usual sit-down dinner in the banquet hall. About 40 meals were delivered by a team of seven drivers.
“The to-go operation is going much smoother this year. Last year, was the first time we did it that way, and we learned from it,” said cook Chris Snyder.