Cottam church's annual U.S. Thanksgiving feast stays take-out only

In this file photo, volunteers at the United Curch in Cottam prepare meals for their annual U.S. Thansgiving meal. This year's event will remain take-out style.  (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)
In this file photo, volunteers at the United Curch in Cottam prepare meals for their annual U.S. Thansgiving meal. This year's event will remain take-out style. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)

For 76 years, the United Church in Cottam, Ont., has held a U.S. Thanksgiving dinner. But this year, organizers decided to cancel the dine-in option for good and move to take-out only.

The decades-old event originally began as a way for U.S. cottage-goers visiting the small community to have a sense of home and meet their Canadian neighbours. It's become a much-anticipated community event.

The turkey dinner with all the fixings is prepared by a large group of volunteers, and as they age, organizers say they want to keep people safe amid a busy cold and flu season.

"We realized at this point we have [an] aging volunteer group and aging people attending the event and we needed to kind of adjust," said Rick Mayea, chair. of the event. "I think at the end of the day it's better for everybody with this."

The church is still expecting to serve about 1,400 meals on Thursday, with profits going toward the church's general fund.

"We have found a really efficient way to be able to reach as many people as we can in that short period of time, so we do feel that this is what we want to continue to do, but we'll continue to reassess that moving forward," said Ashley Hanaka, one of the volunteers.

"Whether we do a different event where we can bring people back into the church for a sit-down meal, but as far as a fundraiser goes, we found that this is the best way for us to continue to do it."

Mayea says this year's event comes at a greater cost, due to the rising price of turkey and availability of some ingredients.

"Turkey prices are up $1.50 per pound so that's literally $1.50 per order," he said. "That was significant. Cranberries — almost virtually impossible to find so we had to make our own...[sauce]."

We don't like to change prices; we really don't want to do that but at the same time we have to cover ourselves."

The annual American Turkey Dinner at the Cottam United Church takes place Thursday, and they are still taking orders up until the event.