Volunteers in the Cortez area are getting ready for the annual Community Christmas Dinner on Sunday, Dec. 25. If past years are an indication, they will end up serving free food to anywhere from 300 to 600 people.
There will be plenty of food, with more than 20 turkeys and several cases of potatoes, cranberry sauce and stuffing ready to be cooked at the Montezuma County Annex, but Cortez mayor and organizer Karen Sheek said she still needs a few more volunteers to prepare the meal.
This is the 28th year Cortez has hosted the Community Christmas Dinner. It has become a county tradition that allows residents from all walks of life to celebrate the holidays together – without having to cook.
“It’s open to anybody,” Sheek said. “It’s not just for people who don’t have families. People bring their families.”
The dinner free to the public, and all food is paid for with donations. People can donate money at the Cortez Cultural Center, Four Corners Community Bank or Vectra Bank throughout the Christmas season. Donations of dessert, through the Cultural Center, are also welcome. Community members used to bring turkey and other main courses to the dinner, but Sheek said the organizers stopped accepting those out of concern they might get an undercooked entree.
Last year, about 400 people attended the dinner, despite a heavy snowfall. Sheek is expecting similar numbers this year, and possibly more if the weather is good. People who can’t make it to the annex building can also sign up ahead of time through the Cortez Cultural Center to have the meal delivered to them.
For those who can make it, though, the dinner will begin at 11 a.m. and end at 1 p.m. Volunteers typically start arriving a little before 9 a.m. to start carving the turkeys and preparing side dishes, and some stay until 3 p.m. to clean up. But Sheek said people are welcome to help out for as long as they can, whether it’s for one hour or the whole day.
The dinner menu will consist of traditional Christmas fare: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls and whatever desserts the guests choose to bring. But the main tradition Sheek wants to celebrate is that of spending quality time with friends and neighbors, which she called “the true meaning of the season.”
The dinner brings together many people who might not see each other very much the rest of the year.
“It’s a really nice time to be able to come out and enjoy the holiday,” Sheek said.