In 1980, Pastor John DeSanto of the United Presbyterian Church in Montrose, was challenged by a young intern to organize a free Thanksgiving Dinner for “people living alone, or wanting to meet new friends, or people passing through without a place to go, or people out of work, or people wanting to share their Thanksgiving goodies with others.”
Over 25 years later, Montrose Community Dinners (MCD) continues this same tradition. The Community Thanksgiving Dinner has gone through a metamorphosis in organization and size, but has remained true to the original challenge.
From 1980-1994, the Association of Montrose Churches took up the challenge and provided a full Thanksgiving dinner, prepared by volunteers. The meal was served at the United Presbyterian Church and at the United Methodist Church during that time.
In 1994, Paul Parsons, Association president, announced that the Associate of Montrose Churches would no longer be hosting the Thanksgiving Dinner. Enter the Montrose Chamber of Commerce Red Coats, who moved the dinner to Friendship Hall at the Montrose County Fairgrounds and added local entertainment and games for the children in 1995. In 1996, the Thanksgiving “Friends” incorporated to become the Montrose Community Dinners, Inc. This annual event has grown, serving over 2000 free meals, including home deliveries to people unable to attend. The deliveries are handled by the Montrose High School Soccer Team and other volunteers.
The meal has continued to be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with trimmings, with 110 turkeys donated by the Montrose Association of Realtors. The County of Montrose and Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. are also major sponsors. The Association of Montrose Churches provides over 400 homemade pies and desserts, prepared by church members. This community dinner also relies on the generosity of numerous other sponsors and donors who provide funds and in-kind donations. The continuous support of the business community, service clubs, and other organizations is a necessity for the success of this annual events. New supporters are always encouraged and welcome. Donations are tax-deductible.
Besides the vital financial donations, over 350 volunteers create a day of community giving with hours of food preparation, hall setup and decorations, and a day of serving. To make each Thanksgiving Day a success and the dinner run smoothly, the MCD Board begins planning in August. Bob Eakin, Bonnie Eakin and Marge Keehfuss all served on this Board for over 20 years. Other long-time Board members include Sharon and Keith Rasmussen, Suzi and John Reich, and Tom Richards. Their efforts and knowledge have provided steady direction for the current Board members.
Each Board member has assigned duties which contribute to creating a Thanksgiving Day experience for the community. The reward of seeing happy, satisfied diners makes all of the Board members smile.
This celebration began with a mission to care for people in our community—friends, neighbors, and families in need. It has continued in that same attitude of love and “family” and is one of the great attributes of the Montrose community.