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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Cottam United Church’s 74th annual turkey dinner drive-through sold 1000 meals

by Adam Gault

Yet another successful American Thanksgiving inspired dinner was celebrated at Cottam United Church on Thursday, November 26, as volunteers hosted the 74th Annual Turkey Dinner fundraiser, which sold just over 1000 meals.

  Like many events over the past nine months, this year’s version of the dinner looked a little different, with organizers opting for a drive-through take-out format that had diners arrive in their vehicles for their scheduled pick-up times, between 2:30 and 7 pm. At this point, their pre-paid dinner was loaded into their vehicle by one of nearly 75 volunteers, who brought their efforts together to support this incredible logistical undertaking.

  “Pretty quickly, we came to the decision that we wanted to have [the dinner] done,” Cottam United Pastor, Kim Gilliland, said of the Church’s decision to go through with the modified dinner in the face of the pandemic. “[We wanted to host it] because we wanted to give people a sense of normalcy in their lives. With everything that’s goofy and changing and crazy, this is something that’s gone on for 74-years. We knew it wouldn’t happen normally, but we wanted the dinner to happen.”

  With the blessing of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, the modified dinner was allowed to go ahead, with initial planning for the logistics of the dinner beginning nearly three months ago.

Closer to go time, Cottam United employed the services of off-site commercial ovens and the home kitchens of church volunteers to cook the turkeys before bringing them to the church to be added to the total dinner package, which completely sold-out several days in advance.

  “We weren’t sure what the numbers would be like, but we thought with people desiring that normalcy in their lives, that we’d do well,” Gilliland said. “We could have sold a lot more, frankly.”

  Falling on the American Thanksgiving weekend, the dinner has traditionally been popular with visiting Americans and their Canadian relatives. Obviously, with the ongoing Canadian-American travel restrictions in place, that sense of cross-border community was missing from this year’s dinner.

“There is that identity of the supper that goes with [the] American Thanksgiving,” Gilliland explained. “We do miss the American visitors, but it just goes to show that more than enough local people bought dinners to make up for the Americans that can’t be here.”

  Organizers also stated that they have something special planned for next year’s 75th annual dinner, but are not yet at liberty to divulge what those plans might entail.

  “At the end of the day, what you see here is not an accident. There’s a lot of people dedicated to this event,” Turkey Dinner Chairperson, Rick Mayea, explained. “It’s a testament to the community supporting an event that’s been around for 75-years. It’s a fundraiser, but essentially it’s a fellowship in community.”


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