Turkey express: Covered Bridge Café prepares for community dinner

November, 2018 Posted in Community, Food And Drink

By Mary Owen

The traditional free Thanksgiving Dinner at the Covered Bridge Café is a highlight for many in the community.

“Our first year, we served under 300 people,” said Cari Sessums, co-owner of the popular eatery with Christy Sessums. “Last year, about 1,500 people – 625 delivered and the rest in the dining room – came to the dinner. We expect to have about the same number this year. We’re prepared for that many.”

The tradition was started at the eatery by Mike Ely, owner of Charlie Mike’s, and actually has roots all the way back to St. Boniface Catholic Church in Sublimity. When the Sessums took over after purchasing the café from Ely, they never expected the dinner to be such a tradition for the many community members who attend, not just to eat, but to serve.

“We have so many people that come every year to share themselves with others in their community by sitting with them and sharing a meal or by volunteering,” Sessums said. “It takes about eight people to put this on.”

Some like Sue Masse and Judy Skinner have helped since the first year the dinner was held at St. Boniface. Masse and Skinner usually handle the recycling and composting at the Covered Bridge Café each year.

This year’s traditional dinner will offer turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, veggies, dinner roll, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Also on the menu are Sessum’s mother’s famous pumpkin bars, now made by Lovin’ Oven.

The Thanksgiving dinner will be held from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at the Covered Bridge Café. Delivery service takes place from noon to 3 p.m. with the cut-off date to order a delivered meal being Tuesday, Nov. 20.

Members of the Stayton Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office package and deliver all take-out meals throughout Stayton and Sublimity as well as outlying areas in Marion County.

Of the dinner, she added, “We could never accomplish this event without the countless volunteers and donations from so many in our community. Some years we have big donations and more than enough to cover it, some years just enough, and some years we have to pay for a lot ourselves.”

All leftovers, food and donations are given away each year, she said.

“Last year’s went to the Union Gospel Mission,” Sessums said. “The food bank had no room to store all those dinners, and the mission serves them the very next day.”

Summing up the essence of the event, she added, “It’s really about community spirit and sharing a little of ourselves with others in our community whether needy or not. It’s just about getting together as a community.”

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time the family focuses on giving back. Sessums recounts how they have helped local churches, the Stayton Community Food Bank, the Stayton Senior Center, Family Building Blocks, Marion County Re-Entry, SummerFest, summer movies, Stayton High School (cheer and football teams, Highlights and Booster Club), Regis High School scholarships, Stayton Middle School’s football team, Third Avenue Halloween, Stayton Public Library, Stayton Fire District, and most recently, the Stayton interactive chalkboard project.

“This year, we donated to Stayton High School’s senior scholarship program and senior all-night party,” Sessums said.

To volunteer, donate or order dinner, call Covered Bridge Café, 503-767-3945.

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