Inflation, cost of living increases highlight the importance of community dinners this Thanksgiving

Wayne Werbelow cuts pies donated by the community on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, while he volunteers for his church, Father Dyer United Methodist Church, which hosts a community dinner on Thanksgiving Day each year.
Andrew Maciejewski/Summit Daily News

With historic inflation and a more than 150% increase in demand for aid at local food banks compared to 2021, leaders and volunteers across Summit County have been working hard to provide a welcoming dinner for the community this Thanksgiving.

Family & Intercultural Resource Center executive director Brianne Snow said this time of year may be particularly challenging for Summit County’s working population who may have relocated to the county for the ski season. 

At community food markets, Snow said she’s heard stories of folks feeling isolated, lonely and disconnected from friends and family. She added that winter can worsen these feelings as days get shorter and ski resorts slowly open — during that time, folks may worry about money and struggle with their mental health. However, community dinners are a great way to uplift others, Snow said. 

“There’s plenty of people that are new to the community that certainly feel the pain of not having family around during the holiday season,” Snow said. “So I think that it is so important for the community to step up and surround these people with some social support.”

The dinner provides both social and financial support, Davis said. She added that due to recent economic changes, this year’s free meal may be particularly helpful to the community. 

“We’re seeing more people come through our food pantry that we serve out of our church, and of course there are other food pantries in the county that are seeing increased numbers with the price of food,” Davis said. 

Snow said numbers have also been up at the Dillon Food Market, which provides free groceries for Summit County residents in need. 

“Each week, we surpass our record from the week before,” Snow said. At the beginning of the summer, the market was serving 300 households. On Tuesday, Nov. 15, Snow said the Dillon Food Market served about 363 households. 

“It just shows the need in the community is not dissipating,” Snow said. “If anything, it’s getting more and more necessary to have to rely on those outside sources for food.” 

Local community dinners

Running for more than 25 years, The Rotary Club of Summit County’s Thanksgiving meal will take place from noon to 3 p.m. at the Silverthorne Pavilion, 400 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne.

Over in Breckenridge, a team of workers at Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant and Cantina will begin cooking at 4 a.m. on Thursday for the annual Father Dyer United Method Church Thanksgiving community dinner. The dinner will be held at the church, 310 Wellington Road, Breckenridge, and it will be held from 3-6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 24. 

When plans for the meal began, Mi Casa director of operations Jen Cawley said she depended on previous year’s dinners and also how intense the need was in the community to decide how much food should be prepared. 

Mi Casa will be cooking about 400 pounds of turkey and about 180 to 200 pounds of each side, which include green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy and mashed potatoes. 

“We really enjoy being part of the community and providing this meal,” Cawley said.

This year, the church will be offering a buffet-style dinner complete with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, green bean casserole and more. 

All food will be provided by Mi Casa besides rolls that are bought from City Market and pies donated by members of the community. 

Cawle said a team of about 10 people coordinate food for Father Dyer’s Thanksgiving dinner and begin planning immediately following each year’s meal. 

Sandy Davis, the coordinator of the dinner, said Father Dyer estimates that at least 400 guests will be in attendance. About 25 folks provided one or more pies and about 45 volunteers have signed up to spend their afternoon serving food, directing traffic and bussing tables. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s dinner was strictly take-out. Davis said this year, folks can enjoy fellowship and dining with the community during their sit-down meal. 

“It’s a chance for people to … get together as they sit down at a table,” Davis said. “So it might not just be one family at a table — there may be some people that you don’t know — so you get to know the wider community.”

Cawley added that Mi Casa will also be delivering portions of their Thanksgiving feast to folks working along Main Street in Breckenridge on Thanksgiving Day.

Even if folks can’t volunteer their time, Snow said there are plenty of ways to help out the community. Something as simple as asking others if they’re okay or if they need anything is a good place to start, Snow said. 

“This is just a really hard time for folks,” Snow said. “When you’re alone or don’t have social support, it becomes glaringly obvious during the holiday season, and that can be really tough. So I think that we all have an obligation to reach out and make sure one another is okay.”

More information can be found on the Father Dyer website at

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