One change over the years has been “the huge mushrooming of the carryout orders,” Hartshorn points out. Carryouts started in the early 1970s. “It was small at first and grew and grew. Now it’s an assembly line operation. Bob Fitzpatrick has run that since it started and he’s done a nice job.” Last year, 818 dinners were sold, 228 in the dining room and 590 for carryout.
At least 100 church members are involved. On Thursday night, some set up tables and chairs, then distribute placemats, salt and pepper shakers and decorations. Other work areas range from preparing the menu items to turkey carving, carryout, washing and rinsing dishes and cleanup. Nettnay estimates one-third to one-half of helpers are there on the fateful Saturday from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. “It’s amazing how fast they get it cleaned up.”
Hartshorn maintains the biggest challenge of pulling off the dinner “was the timing of getting started in the various groups on Saturday afternoon. It all had to come together at 3:15” for home deliveries made by Jay and Kay Varner, the Hartshorns and teens to elderly shut-ins. “If any one of those items straggles behind, it screws up everything.”
Tricia Hutchison reports there really aren’t too many challenges any more. “We just have to be the leader of the parade, we don’t have to recreate the wheel. It blows my mind how fabulously it comes together every single year. We’re blessed with such amazing volunteers.” Not all of them are Methodists. “We’ve got Boy Scouts and (National) Honor Society students. We’ve got neighbors, Catholics, ... Baptists! Everybody is doing whatever needs to be done. It makes me realize what a great community this is.”
The church’s Outreach Committee purchases tickets for Safe Passage clients, who received 26 dinners last year. Leftovers are donated to the facility as well “to let them know we’re caring about them,” according to Hutchison.