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Beyond COVID and back to our roots, a Harvest Supper with a twist

St Paul's Harvest dinner
By on November 1, 2022

St Paul’s in Almonte has a long history of hospitality going back more than 150 years and more recently, for about 40 years, we have prepared an annual Harvest Supper for the community. What began at the church eventually became so popular that it had to be moved to the local Civitan hall to accommodate the ever-increasing numbers, even reaching 700 dinners served one year! But then COVID came along and changed everything. Its impact touched each and every one of us, both at a personal and at a congregational level. Fellowship and welcoming people into our spaces all but vanished, replaced by the ubiquitous Zoom meetings and YouTube broadcast services.

This year, as the summer wore on, Parish Council was faced with deciding how to proceed. Returning to the Civitan felt too risky. Not only did we not know if there would be another snap lockdown but our dwindling number volunteers were still very cautious about large gatherings. We were on the verge of cancelling the supper when I thought of the Mississippi Mills Youth Centre (MMYC) who had put together a cooking program during Covid, preparing and distributing around 20,000 meals. 

Fast forward through hours of planning and meetings and more meetings along with the occasional gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, and the sunny Saturday of the Harvest Supper rolled around on Sept. 17. There had been challenges we had not thought of, less equipment and working in two separate locations for example, but the amazing kids at the MMYC, under Lilli’s guiding hands (boy is she amazing at managed chaos!) were invaluable. They cooked turkeys, did hours and hours of prep work, assembled ingredients, cut pies, made bean salad and stuffing, washed and chopped 120lbs of potatoes and packed over 100 takeout meals in 345 containers! They were ever so patient with my fine tuning the recipes that I have had in my head for years. A little bit of this and a bit more of that can be confusing. And when they needed a hand, St. Paul’s came through with

 an intrepid team of potato peelers (thank you Anne, Deane, Jane and Dan!) who spent hours joyfully working at a table outside in the sun.

Now, as the memory of tired feet and sore backs is fading, the heartwarmingly positive feedback is still ringing in our ears. “The food was so delicious…”, “the turkey was so juicy…”, “the mashed potatoes were the best ever, so buttery!”, “we loved the atmosphere in the church hall, so much nicer than the Civitan”, “it was so nice to see the youngsters helping out…”.

Having so much youthful energy in the church was truly a blessing all around. Whether serving pies, clearing tables, hosting guests upstairs or bringing them down our steep stairs to the hall, they quickly adapted, learning new skills along with a broader understanding of who we were and what a church event actually entailed. 

With God’s grace and a lot of hard work we served 275 meals, including 20 donated for Food Bank clients. St. Paul’s parishioners stepped up with their time and much of the food that was needed. A special thanks to Sandra who worked tirelessly on all the admin, sales and front of house details, to Wendy, Deane, Cathy, Karen M, Roger and Christy who all went above and beyond, and to Dan for all his support before, during and after. 

At the end of the day, once all the tickets were counted and bills paid, there was a bit over $ 5,000 left. We had decided to share any profits with the MMYC and the Food Bank so about $2,000 went to the former and $1,000 to the latter. We also support Interval House, an emergency shelter for women and children. We gave them 40 meals, extra cooked turkey and groceries. Though finances are challenging for all churches post-Covid, at St. Paul’s we are feeling the pull more and more to share what we can with the most vulnerable in our community. For it is in giving that we receive…

Author

  • Claire Marson

    Claire Marson is a member of St. Paul’s Almonte and co-ordinator of Feeding Hope Together.

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