The Woodward News

November 26, 2013

Community Thanksgiving dinner set Thursday

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Planning a large holiday meal can be hectic. Just imagine trying to cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal for over 400 people.

But after 16 years, Woodward's First United Methodist Church has it down to an art.

And this Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the church will once again be offering its Community Thanksgiving Dinner at no charge to the public.

“It's completely free; we don't ask for any donations. We just do it as a service to the community,” said event co-chair Scott Grunewald.

Preparations for the dinner began weeks ago with sign-up sheets passed around for church members to volunteer to help cook, set-up, serve or even deliver meals, Grunewald said.

Now that it's the week of Thanksgiving, he said things really get busy, starting with the roasting of 20 to 22 turkeys.

“We have a sort of 'adopt-a-turkey' program, where people sign up to take a turkey home, cook it, de-bone it and then bring it back to the church ready to serve for Thursday's meal,” he said.

While the turkeys are cooked on Monday and Tuesday, other volunteers spend Wednesday busily prepping for the various traditional side dishes that will accompany the turkey.

Grunewald said this includes peeling 120 pounds of spuds that will become mashed potatoes, along with making 16 pans of sweet potato casserole.

The meal will then be completed with dressing, green beans, dinner rolls, and a variety of homemade salads and deserts prepared by even more church volunteers, he said.

It's a lot of work, but now in his sixth year as the event's co-chair, Grunewald said one of his favorite parts of the community meal is just “being in the kitchen and working with the people; it's a beehive of activity, but it's nice to see it all come together.”

But even once all the food is cooked, the work is only have done. Because then it comes time to serve the hundreds of community members who make their way to the church for the free holiday meal.

While 2 lines of servers dish up the traditional favorites, Grunewald said another group of volunteers deliver meals to shut-ins around the community and others who aren't able to make it out for the meal.

Those who would like to request a carryout meal need to contact the church office at 256-5515 by Wednesday, he said.

“We also take meals to EMS, to the fire department, to the sheriff's office and to the police department as a way for those who are working that day to still enjoy a nice Thanksgiving dinner,” he said.

Because after all, that is the whole goal of the event, Grunewald said, to help ensure that everyone in the community has a chance to enjoy a traditional, home-cooked Thanksgiving meal.

He said the community dinner got started because members of the First United Methodist Church “realized that maybe there's a need for people who may not have a place to go on Thanksgiving, so we decided to open our doors.”

And for those who are able to come to the church to enjoy the meal, he said it is about more than just food.

Because for many people, including Grunewald himself, “the holidays are about families getting together.” But for those not able to join their families, the holidays can often be a lonely time. The Community Thanksgiving Dinner gives those people a chance to not be alone, at least for one holiday meal.

“If someone comes by themselves, it gives them a chance to sit down with others and fellowship,” Grunewald said, noting “to see them come in, sit and share their stories with each other, it's really heartwarming.”