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Chicken Dinner Connects Community

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Hungry, yet smiling County residents, church members, and even some out-of-towners arrived promptly at 5:00 PM at the Arbuckle Fire Hall on February 21, 2016, for Arbuckle Methodist Church’s Annual Chicken and Ham Fundraising Dinner.

Patrons exchanged friendly hellos as they entered the hall where tickets for the dinner and raffle were being sold.

Pastor Pete Shell, who serves as the congregation spiritual leader for both the Williams and Arbuckle United Methodist Church, visited and greeted the public as diners lined up to be served the church’s famous chicken and ham dinner.

Proceeds raised from the event benefit the Arbuckle church for budgetary shortfalls or special projects.

“This annual event is a major fundraising event for the church, but it’s more than just a chicken and ham meal. People come out to see everyone and enjoy each other’s company,” said Pastor Shell, “They look forward to attending, and some even come from out-of-state to spend time with a community.”

Janet Anderson, a member of the organizing committee for the annual event, made last minute adjustments to some of the raffle prizes that covered three large tables. Incoming guests then cast their tickets into the hand decorated bags assigned to each prize in the hopes that their ticket would be drawn after the dinner concluded.

“It’s just so wonderful to see people excited about the prizes, and then when you see them win, it’s just great,” said Anderson.

The congregation, community and local businesses all donated or crafted the items to be raffled. Some of those items included a “Dessert of the Month,” donated by Two Chicks Creations, a handmade quilt, and two framed pieces of art painted by local artists were among the donations.

Meanwhile, in the adjoining dining room and kitchen, diners joined the food line and were served chicken, sliced ham as well as beans. Volunteers at a third table served salads and rice dishes that church members prepared.

Cynthia Peterson supervised the food table and assisted those who purchased “to-go” versions of the meal.

“We are counting on at least 200 meals being served and can go up to 250 if we need to,” said Peterson.

Eighteen-year-old Kent Bosse, a senior at Pierce High School, was kept quite busy as a volunteer. When asked how he got involved the event, Bosse responded with, “The school asked kids to come help serve food at the church so here I am.”

Even though Bosse has fulfilled the required number of community service hours he needs to graduate, he wanted to help the community and spent most of the evening filling and refilling ice waters for the diners as well as clearing plates and breaking down chairs and tables at the end.

Muriel Scofield, Chair of the committee responsible for the annual fundraiser, quietly observed the event from her post in the kitchen and ensured that all went smoothly.

Later, when the final call was made for the raffle and only a few diners lingered at the tables, she was able to sit with her committee members and enjoy some of what they worked so hard to produce.

Scofield gives credit for the cooking to David McCullough of Arbuckle and stated that those involved worked very hard to prepare the dinner.

In response to questions about the cooking methods used Scofield commented that the chicken is most likely based on an old recipe called “Smothered Chicken.” In fact, she described how the chicken is steamed, seasoned and then fried which she says results in their unique dish that the attendees look forward to each year.  An addition of gravy would make the chicken smothered indeed.

At the end of the evening, Pastor Pete drew tickets and passed out prizes. The excitement was in the air, but for Matthew Gessford, 13, it was hearing his 12-year-old cousin, Ellen Carlson’s name announced for the Star Wars Basket that thrilled him.

The instant she was handed the large Star Wars themed basket, she passed it to her cousin and said, “Merry Christmas!”  He beamed happily and explained, “We each put our tickets in the different bags for prizes, and when we saw this Star Wars one, she promised I could have it if she won.”

As the event came to an end, the prizes, attendees and to-go dinners were loaded into cars and folks headed for home feeling satisfied that the community had once again come together, and the outcome was a success.

Mollia Jewett
Mollia Jewett
Mollia Jewett is a former reporter for the Pioneer Review. She began in January 2016 and worked as a community reporter.

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