The dining hall in St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Cortez was noisy with cheerful conversation at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Hundreds of people crowded into the church for the annual community Thanksgiving dinner. Volunteers served 22 turkeys, 51 pies, 21 dozen rolls and plenty of side dishes, all provided by donations. It was just enough for the Montezuma County residents who came through the hall during the noon hour.
Sylvia Clahchischilli, a member of St. Barnabas, came to get Thanksgiving dinner after spending the morning delivering meals to people in the county who weren’t able to drive into Cortez.
“I really believe that the good news is not just verbal,” Clahchischilli said. “It’s about getting to the very basics of people’s needs, and that’s hunger. People need to eat, need a roof over their heads.”
Volunteers delivered about 35 meals, and served more than 200 at the church. Leigh Waggoner, pastor of St. Barnabas, said she had more jobs for volunteers this year because the church organized the meal differently than usual, but she still had to turn some would-be helpers away.
“I got a phone message at 5:45 this morning from somebody: ‘I can’t go back to sleep – is there anything I can do?’” she said.
Many of the volunteers were from the St. Barnabas congregation, and some regularly serve at Grace’s Soup Kitchen, which operates out of the church. But some came from other churches and charities around the county, or just signed up on their own.
“All these people here are representative of the community,” Victoria Atkins, one of the kitchen volunteers, said.
She also thanked the many people who had donated food and money for the event.
Earlier in the day, more than 100 people had gathered in Parque De Vida with their dogs for the For Pets Sake humane society’s annual Turkey Trot. Humans and pets were decked out in turkey or pilgrim costumes for the 1-kilometer race around the park. About 15 local businesses pitched in to pay for the T-shirts and prizes handed out to the runners, and proceeds from the registration fees went to support For Pets Sake.
“This is a great fundraiser for us, but it’s also a family tradition for many people,” the race announcer, Kathy Hennek, said. “We get you home in time for the holiday meal, and you get to burn off a few calories before getting stuffed.”
The 2016 Turkey Trot raised almost $4,000 for the humane society, and board member Marian Rohman said she expected a similar this year.