For 14th year, free Thanksgiving dinner for Fulton community

FULTON — Great food and fellowship are the goals of the 14th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Fulton.

The dinner is set for noon until 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, at First United Church of Fulton, located at 33 S. Third St. in the city.

The free sit-down dinner is open to everyone, and features a complete Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the fixings.

“It’s open to the whole community. It’s for whatever reason they would like to be there,” said Dinner Chairperson Carol Dexter. “It could be a financial situation. It could be a husband and wife who don’t want to prepare a huge meal. Sometimes it’s just somebody alone that wants some fellowship. Whatever the reason is, we are there for them.”

About 270 meals were served last year, and it truly takes a community effort to execute the event.

An organizing committee includes representatives of some Fulton churches and the Oswego County Salvation Army.

In addition, local businesses and individuals contribute donations of food or money to assist, Dexter said.

Financial donations are still being accepted for the event. Anyone interested in making a financial donation may send a check (Thanksgiving Dinner in the memo) to the First United Church of Fulton, 33 S. Third St., Fulton, NY 13069.

Interested volunteers may call Dexter at 315-592-5162.

First United Church of Fulton is located between Cayuga and Utica streets. There is off-street parking and the facility is handicapped accessible.

“It has become such a community effort and a wonderful holiday tradition,” Dexter said.

She pointed out that Golden Corral used to have this dinner before its Fulton location closed.

“All of a sudden when they closed their doors, a group of people from State Street Church said there’s a need, and we need to find a way to fill it,” Dexter said. “They had the idea. They went to the Salvation Army and talked to them and asked them to partner with them. Members of the committee that was formed were from the church and the Salvation Army board and some friends that just wanted to be involved.”

The Community Thanksgiving Dinner was held at State Street Church for several years before the dinner shifted to take place at the First United Church of Fulton.

“When we first started, we did a fundraising letter that we sent out to businesses, friends, family, and acquaintances. That actually brought in enough money to keep us going for quite a few years,” Dexter said. “We do have donations from local businesses. Mimi’s is generous in donating items. Hudson’s Dairy donates to us. Bob Weston and his son-in-law supply us with rolls. Turkey breasts are donated. We do have some other donations of food products, sometimes through restaurants in the area. The money that we’ve raised goes to supplement what else we need. We do pay someone to bake all of our pies.”

Many volunteers are involved in the dinner from planning to setup and serving to cleanup.

About seven or eight people are involved with setup the day before the dinner. On Thanksgiving Day, the chef arrives with his helpers about 7:30 a.m., and food prep begins. There are volunteers who slice the turkey breasts, and two or three who cut the pies.

About eight people help prepare the Meals on Wheels meals, and six or seven deliver those meals to people who are unable to come to the church for the dinner.

Dexter said there are no other deliveries, and take-outs are not available.

“The idea originally was for people to have a place to enjoy a good, home-cooked meal, a good traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and enjoy the fellowship of others. We’re encouraging people to be together,” she said.

Those attending can expect a restaurant type of atmosphere.

“We have a hostess that makes sure that people get seated. We assign a server to the group that comes in. It’s not a buffet. We get them seated, get them their dessert, and get their plates and bring it back,” Dexter said. “Sometimes they stay and chat with people. We generally have about 20 or so people that are serving the meals and plating the food.”

With about eight tables seating eight to a table, diners are encouraged to enjoy the company of others attending.

Any food that is left over is donated to the Oswego County Salvation Army. And there’s plenty of food, as the committee plans each year on having enough for 300 meals.

“Our goal is 300. I’m not quite sure why, but 300 sounds like a good number. When we plan the food, we plan for 300,” Dexter said. “Since we’ve begun, we’ve always had over 200. Weather can make a difference.”

She said it’s great that everyone in the community knows they are welcome to attend this dinner and enjoy Thanksgiving with others.

“All of us are just so happy that we can provide a service that’s needed,” Dexter said. “The other thing is also to recognize how many individuals will give up their day to come in and help. Some of our volunteers come from Hannibal, Central Square, Phoenix, Pennellville, and Oswego. They’re coming from all over. It just overwhelms me how many people are out there wanting to help others. They come, they see what’s going on, and they just jump right in.”


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