Montrose will again line up for a free Thanksgiving meal.
The Montrose Community Dinners board weighed lingering concerns over COVID-19 and safety against members’ hopes to bring back the in-person Friends Thanksgiving Dinner. The members determined this year must again be to-go and delivery only.
“We wanted to do this live this year, but we just couldn’t in good conscience,” board member Kevin Kuns said.
“We’re going to miss the camaraderie and bringing people together, or who want to be with somebody on a holiday … all that kind of cool stuff, but we just couldn’t do it. We ached and ached about it.”
Instead, MCD is taking a page out of last year’s book, when it hosted a mobile dinner.
In addition to home-delivery for meals, which has long been an option during the decades-long community Thanksgiving dinner tradition, 2020 saw people drive up outside Friendship Hall to have prepared and packaged meals handed over. Prior to the pandemic, the meal was inside Friendship Hall, with events and ceremony served up alongside turkey, trimmings and pie.
“We’re going to do what we did last year, but we’re changing a few things to speed up the process,” Kuns said, noting that 2020’s drive-up option had a line of cars wrapping around the Montrose County Fairgrounds property and backed up to the McDonald’s.
Among steps to speed things up is changing the time drivers will deliver meals to those who register for one in advance. This year, volunteer drivers will head out with home-deliveries between 9:30 and 11 a.m.
As for to-go meals, people who are picking up a meal are also requested register in advance.
One thing that has not changed: the dinner’s organizers are hungry for volunteers. Standing volunteers and board members, such as chef Holly Padilla and Bobbie Kuns (board president), devote hundreds of hours to put on the event, Kevin Kuns said.
“We’re anticipating the same as last year, 2,000 meals again. It’s a lot. We’re going to need volunteers,” Kuns said, estimating the board needs 100 people to deliver meals and additional volunteers to assist in food prep, plus on Thanksgiving, an additional 100 people to portion and package the meals.
Prep work volunteers are needed to commit to shifts of a few hours between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the days leading up to Thanksgiving: Nov. 22, 23 and 24. About 30 people a day or needed for the prep work.
“Because of COVID and numbers are on the rise, if you’re going to volunteer, we have a COVID protocol for anybody handling food,” Kuns said. That includes gloves and masks, as well as a vaccination card or a negative test 72 hours before volunteering.
Kuns said the board is aware that some people might not volunteer because of those requirements, but that there is a need to be responsible.
“We’re doing every safety precaution we can to protect everybody. Besides a fun day and turkey with all the trimmings, we’re taking our responsibility seriously,” he said.
Although the Thanksgiving meal is free to all comers, the dinner board also needs donations.
“We’re feeding 2,000 people. We need to at least cover costs. We’re not looking to make money, but it costs a lot of money to feed 2,000 people. Any kind of donation helps,” Kuns said.
Food and supply costs have risen due to supply and demand and other reverberations from the COVID pandemic, he also said. “It’s a lot more expensive to do this than it was three years ago,” Kuns said.
To register for a to-go meal that you pick up, go to montrosecommunitydinners.com/to-go.
To register for home delivery, go to montrosecommunitydinners.com/delivery, or call 970-318-6759 by Nov. 20.
To volunteer, go to montrosecommunitydinners.com/volunteer.
Donate at montrosecommunitydinners.com or send a check to P.O. Box 3540, Montrose CO 81402.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.
This story has been updated to correctly reflect Kevin Kuns' status on the Montrose Community Dinners board. Update also clarifies that volunteers need either a vaccine card or a negative test within 72 hours of volunteering, not both.