Sewickley United Methodist volunteers prepare for 65th annual turkey dinner

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

For those who think cooking Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings for a big family is tough, it would be an eye-opening experience to see how Sewickley United Methodist Church volunteers come together to feed 600 every February.

This year marks the 65th time the annual February turkey dinner will be held at the church on Broad Street.

Many times, the dinner has sold out, and each year, people are encouraged to buy their tickets ahead of time to assure a spot.

Twenty-two team members organize the dinner each year. Each one is responsible for a certain function with Sandra Lane, chairwoman, leading the way.

New members and friends are added to the team each years for new perspectives and fresh ideas, Lane said.

It takes about 100 volunteers to make, serve, clean up and recycle for the dinner for 600 each year.

About 34 turkeys are cooked, which equals 654 pounds. Portions are weighed and stored so that each diner receives an equal amount.

The day before and the day of the event, the men of the church peel and boil 300 pounds of potatoes that will be made into mashed potatoes and doled out with an ice cream scooper.

Also served are 156 pounds of green beans, 125 pounds of coleslaw and 600 rolls.

Almost all the items needed for the meal are purchased locally, said Bola Nicholson, public relations team leader.

The 87 pies, which are paid for by the congregation instead of using money from the budget, are purchased at Safran's Supermarket in Sewickley.

This year, Nicholson said there will be more cherry pies than pumpkin, because in years past, organizers noticed there was plenty of pumpkin left over at the end of the day, but the cherry was gone.

And, 126 loaves of bread are used to make 42 batches of stuffing. The bread is shredded the day before and baked early in the morning the day of the event.

“Our stuffing is homemade with a recipe that is just as old as the turkey dinner. Volunteers meet at the church to tear the bread into pieces, another team comes in to season it and then another to pan and bake it on the day of the dinner. Without our volunteers, this would have been impossible,” Nicholson said.

The tables are set with the church's antique china and silverware, which has to be washed and polished before the event.

The men of the church began the dinner in 1947 to honor presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, both born in February. It was then known as the Men's Turkey Dinner, and was prepared by the men and served by men only.

Now, both men and women in the church help to make the meal. Later on, the meal became a fundraiser for the church.

In the early years. donations from Sewickley shops provided the majority of the ingredients.

Now, the church has a budget for the dinner.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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