November 27, 2021

Dinners show blessings that people can bestow

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Loaves and Fishes Executive Director Kim Hill cuts squash in preparation for the organization’s annual Thanksgiving dinner at the United Presbyterian Church on Church Street in this November 2016 photo.

CORTLAND — Sometimes, Thanksgiving isn’t about the turkey and stuffing. It’s not always about the friends and family. Sometimes it’s enough to know you have someplace to just be.

Kim Hill understands it well, she said as she cut and roasted squash in the kitchen of United Presbyterian Church in Cortland in preparation for Friday’s Thanksgiving dinner served by Loaves and Fishes. Four months ago, Hill, the executive director, was burned out of her kitchen at Grace and Holy Spirit Church on Court Street.

“We’re blessed to be here after the fire,” Hill said as she alternated between trays of roasted acorn and butternut squash that someone just dropped off on the doorstep. A touch of butter — two one-pound blocks are on the table beside her — a bit of salt and pepper and they’ll be ready for the table.

She’ll share the gratitude Friday with a Thanksgiving dinner. The event, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the church Church Street will see 15 turkeys as the center of attention, roasted squash, corn, potatoes, stuffing and pies. Hill expects 170 people to come.

“We get a lot of people who drop in just for the special meal,” Hill said as she peeked in on a pair of turkeys pre-roasting in the oven. And that’s OK. Some compromises need to be made, of course. She bounces between the two churches because storage space is limited, and the potatoes this year will be well-doctored from a box because Hill just doesn’t have the means this year to mash 50 or 80 pounds of freshly peeled spuds.

But that’s not what the holiday is about. It’s the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving. “We were blessed,” Hill said. “We were so blessed.”

On Thanksgiving day: Gregg Cuthbert can rattle off what it takes to make his Thanksgiving dinner: 100 pounds of turkey and another 100 of ham; 100 pounds of potatoes and a similar amount of sweet potatoes. Carrots, macaroni and cheese, baked ziti and whatever blessings bakers bestow for dessert.

Much of it is donated, said the owner of The Body Shop Tatto and Piercing shop on Main Street, from Bill Bros. Dairy, from Pontillo’s Pizzeria, from Seven Valley Realty and Spiedini’s pizza parlor — from many more, including the Salvation Army, which is donating the space and kitchen. The food is stashed in refrigerators all over the city.

He and his dozen or so volunteers will be up early on Thanksgiving, peeling, roasting, boiling and baking to feed, they expect, up to 170 people at the Salvation Army citadel on Main Street, maybe more.

The only thing he and his friends won’t provide is a ride — it’s an insurance thing.

“It’s a long day,” Cuthbert said, but worth it. “Last year, we just had a couple of people pop in and asked to help. If anybody wants to call up and give some time, or a box of something, that’d be great.”

And more: The Salvation Army will offer its own Thanksgiving dinner at 3 p.m. Sunday at its south Main Street facility. Deb Holbrook, program assistant at the Salvation Army, said the meal typically draws up to 125 people.

For the Salvation Army, the dinner is one stop in a five-week journey of bell-ringing, gift-giving, Angel trees and ministry. But for a few hours on a day, it’s a place where people can just be.

Thanksgiving dinners

The Body Shop Tattoo and Piercing

WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 24
WHERE: Salvation Army, 138 Main St., Cortland
ON THE MENU: Turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, carrots, macaroni and cheese, baked ziti, gravy, cranberry sauce and desserts

Loaves and Fishes

WHEN: 4 to 6 p.m. Friday
WHERE: United Presbyterian Church, Church Street and Central Avenue, Cortland
ON THE MENU: Turkeys, squash, potatoes, corn, pie

The Salvation Army

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Salvation Army, 138 Main St., Cortland