The Caring Kitchen in Urbana and the Federation of Churches in St. Paris will provide Thanksgiving Day turkey dinners this year, but don’t expect to have a seat at their tables.
“Thanksgiving at the Caring Kitchen will look different this year due to COVID,” said Marilyn Cohn, director.
“It’s going to be delivery and carry out,” said Pastor Jeremy Spence of First Baptist Church in St. Paris.
The Urbana shelter/pantry for years has welcomed residents of eastern Champaign County inside for free Thanksgiving Day meals, and St. Paris area churches for years have offered free Thanksgiving Day meals for western county residents at Graham Elementary.
No dining-in this year, but turkey dinners with the trimmings will be available for delivery or pickup on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, at the Caring Kitchen on Miami Street and at First Baptist Church, corner of Plum and Church streets in St. Paris.
Both providers of Thanksgiving feasts welcome volunteers and donations of food.
At the Caring Kitchen
“I’ve been here 32 years, and it’s the first time in 32 years that people won’t be eating inside,” Cohn said. “It saddens our hearts, but we’re blessed that we’re getting to do it at all.”
She said the Caring Kitchen served 680 meals last year. “I don’t know if we’ll have more or less this year,” she said.
Whether wanting meals delivered or picked up, turkey eaters are asked to pre-order dinners by calling the Caring Kitchen at 937-653-8443 now through Nov. 20. Call day or night and leave a message noting name, address, number of meals needed and whether meals are to be delivered or will be picked up.
The menu includes turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, stuffing, rolls, cranberry sauce and pies.
Cohn said about 100 volunteers usually help staff with meal prep, delivery, packaging food into Styrofoam containers, etc., but that physical distancing due to COVID-19 will decrease that number this year to perhaps 25 volunteers.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” she said, adding that volunteers will work in shifts.
“Volunteers will have to wear masks and have their temperatures taken,” she added.
Those who would like to volunteer are asked to call 937-653-8443 as soon as possible. Help will be needed Nov. 23 through Thanksgiving Day.
Cohn said she welcomes people to donate food and asks that they do so through Nov. 20. Those donating need not enter the shelter. Staff will meet them at the door.
Besides turkeys and other menu items, including No. 10 cans of green beans and cranberry sauce, Styrofoam containers with three food divisions are needed.
Cohn said that on Thanksgiving Day, all pre-ordered deliveries should be out the door by 10:30 a.m.
Those picking up their pre-ordered meals can do so from 11 a.m. to noon.
Meals are free of charge, but donations will be accepted.
At First Baptist Church, St. Paris
“All the churches help fund this,” Pastor Spence said of St. Paris area churches, which served about 300 turkey dinners last year on Thanksgiving Day. This year, the plan is to have close to 350 meals ready for delivery and pickup.
“Reservations are helpful, but not required,” Spence said. Since knowing how many meals will be needed is helpful, turkey diners are asked to call the church at 937-663-4335 through Nov. 23 to leave a message with their name, address, number of meals needed and whether they should be delivered or will be picked up.
People also can register online at fbcstparis.com/thanksgiving
Those who don’t pre-order still can pick up a meal. “If someone comes on Thanksgiving Day, we’ll serve them,” Spence said.
The Thanksgiving menu will include turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and dessert. The feast will be packaged in family-style containers, rather than as individual dinners.
The meal is free, although donations will be accepted.
“I don’t think we’ll ever turn away a donation, but it’s not required,” Spence said.
Volunteers are welcome and asked to call the church at 937-663-4335 by Nov. 17 at the latest. Spence said they will do their best to follow social distancing and other guidelines.
Donations of food also are appreciated. Those who wish to donate are asked to call the number above.
“We always need volunteers to cook turkeys at their homes and bring them back,” Spence said.
On Thanksgiving Day, he said, the goal will be to deliver meals to people as close to noon as possible, with deliveries planned between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Those picking up food on Thanksgiving Day can do so noon to 1:30 p.m.
“Basically, it will be a drive-thru,” Spence said of diners driving to First Baptist and meals being taken to their vehicles. People also can walk to the entrance to receive their meals.
Kathy Fox can be reached at 937-652-1331, ext. 1773.