The following is a press release issued by the Fort Bragg Presbyterian Church:
Despite a pandemic that has forced the cancellation of virtually every event and celebration in 2020, 800 residents along Mendocino County’s north coast enjoyed a free holiday meal through the Fort Bragg Presbyterian Church’s 24th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner. The theme of this year’s event—Together in Spirit—speaks to the abiding sense of community during a time when family, friends and neighbors are prevented from gathering around a table together.
This year, 113 volunteers worked a combined 152 shifts (food prep, setup, decorations, delivery, etc.) leading up to, and including, Thanksgiving Day.
The COVID-19 crisis required organizers to restructure every aspect of the longstanding event to protect participants and ensure compliance with county public health orders.
- Because preparation of a cold meal doesn’t require the many cooks working together in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day as a hot dinner does, this year’s meal was a “box lunch,” including turkey, a roll, cranberry sauce, potato salad with a seasonal twist, a colorful three-bean salad, and a traditional dessert. Once again, Lynn Derrick of Queenie’s, in Elk, served as head chef.
- Instead of the customary communal dining setup inside the church hall, meal recipients were offered the option between home delivery and, for the first time, contactless curbside pickup at the church (367 S. Sanderson Way). Those arriving to the festively decorated church parking lot to pick up their pre-ordered meals were met by masked and gloved greeters who ensured their order was loaded safely into their vehicles. This year’s fleet of volunteer drivers donned masks and observed social distancing during home drop-offs. The personal protective equipment (PPE) was generously donated by the Mendocino Coast Healthcare Foundation.
- This year, in partnership with the Food Bank, meals were distributed along a pre-determined outreach route so that those who could not drive to the curbside pickup or receive a home delivery could also receive a Thanksgiving meal.
- Not allowed to accept homemade pie donations this year, event organizers partnered with three Fort Bragg businesses to ensure that all meal recipients would still enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dessert. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, Harvest Market and Safeway both collected donated “dessert dollars” from shoppers that were used to purchase the needed pies. Each store augmented the community’s donations with generous contributions of their own. A Sweet Affair Patisserie enabled visitors to the bakery’s online store to purchase desserts for donation to the Thanksgiving meal. Combined with her own personal donation, owner and pastry chef Brittney Harris provided 220 servings of her festive creations.
The 800 meals provided this year—a marked increase over previous years—were split nearly evenly between pickup and delivery. The event fed a diverse portion of the coastal community, from food-insecure households to those who, regardless of finances, would not otherwise have a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
“In a year where it seems that “normal” no longer exists, we’re grateful to have been able to continue the tradition of the Community Thanksgiving Dinner,” said Printha Worthen, lead event coordinator. “Feeding our friends and neighbors under such extenuating circumstances took the faith, flexibility, vision and generosity of so many—from the businesses who ensured there was ample food to share, to the radio stations and newspapers who spread the word, to the volunteers who so willingly helped when helping is so much more challenging, to the Food Bank and other agencies who helped make sure everyone who needed or wanted a meal received one. The spirit of Thanksgiving has never seemed stronger than this year, when our small but determined community came together in spirit.”