Upcoming Church Dinner Begins Its Eighth Decade

October 13, 2023
Members of Bedford’s First Church of Christ, Congregational are getting ready for their 71st annual turkey dinner, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21. Courtesy photo

Dotty Blake was baptized in Bedford’s First Church of Christ, Congregational. So was her husband, Bruce.

“My father was a deacon; he helped raise money to build Fellowship Hall,” she said. “I grew up in this church.”

So, it’s fitting that Blake is chairing the 71st annual turkey dinner, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 21, at 6 p.m. in the church’s Upper Fellowship Hall, 25 The Great Road. Tickets are $20 per adult and $10 per child under 12 and may be purchased by phoning 781-275-7951 or stopping by the church office between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays. Take-out meals also will be available.

Blake retired from 20 years of teaching at Bedford High School in January 2020. Her church resume includes running various events and activities, topped by 15 years in charge of the traditional dinner.

“We used to have the dinner the same day as our fall fair with 300 people coming to the church,” Blake recalled. “We would end the fair at 2 o’clock and by 3 o’clock, they were setting up tables. People baked the turkeys at home. They brought them in all carved and cut up.

“It’s always a success because people known they are going to get a home-cooked meal,” she said. “This is a community event and we want everyone to be a community.

 “It’s a massive operation for someone who never worked in a restaurant,” Blake laughed.

She said it helps “being organized, engineering, meticulous. I’ve gotten this down to a system now.”

The menu is roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, butternut squash, green peas, and apple or pumpkin pie. (Frozen homemade apple pies are also sold for $15 each.) The procurement list: 140-to-150 pounds of turkey, 50 pounds of potatoes, 45 pounds of squash, and stuffing made “from scratch.”

More than three dozen volunteers in a variety of crews prepare to feed almost 130 guests plus the takeout meals. They’ve started already, baking 52 pies, now frozen.

Next Friday afternoon and evening, volunteers will spend hours preparing turkeys, cutting up potatoes and peeling squash, preparing the stuffing.

“The stuffing includes apple, sausage, cranberry with raisins,” Blake said. “And I bake actual bread and break it up into cubes. We bake it in the oven with fresh parsley and the whole nine yards.”

On Saturday morning, four or five more workers will boil the potatoes and squash, then a few more show up in the afternoon to take care of the peas, finish the stuffing, and set up the buffet line. During the dinner, up to 10 younger servers take care of the tables.

“It’s a lot of work and it’s harder every year because there are not as many able-bodied people,” said Blake. “People don’t have big families anymore.” The pandemic precluded the 2020 event, and in 2021, Blake recalled, the entire experience was takeout, a logistical challenge.

Blake named some of the key members of her team: Allyson Printz and Chris Majoros, who head the apple-pie-making team; Connie Matheson, the “gravy and mashed potato master;” Judy Watkins, maker of homemade cranberry sauce; the pastor, Rev. John Castricum, who “cooks the six big birds in two shifts. Garrick Ruggiero carved them last year with help from Chris Majoros and Mark Guetersloh, and Garrick is set to carve again this year. “

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