Fire doesn’t dim hopes: Volunteers flock to pitch in after kitchen fire threatens Community Thanksgiving Dinner

December, 2018 Posted in Community, Food And Drink

The cook was in the kitchen when he dropped some butter,

The butter hit the open flame and the stove began to sputter.

Flames began to grow, and the wires began to melt,

Imagine the great despair that the kitchen crew felt!

But working all together, they put the fire out,

A handful of flour, a fire extinguisher, and no time to pout.

The stove was replaced and the crew began to smile,

The Community Thanksgiving Dinner came off in style!

By Mary Owen

Yes, more than just turkey was cooking just before the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Covered Bridge Café.

“We had a small kitchen fire on Nov. 12,” said Cari Sessums, co-owner of the popular café with Christy Sessums. “We had a bit of a hard time getting it out, but finally did using flour.”

While staring at the ruined stove, the cook mentioned he thought the fire was still burning under the griddle top. Lifting the griddle, which weighs a few hundred pounds, the kitchen crew saw that, indeed, it was still burning.

“We had to use the K extinguisher when he lifted it again,” Sessums said. “It was shorting out all of the wires that control the temperatures and the convection ovens. We did get it off before Range guard went off.”

Sessums called Chief Jay Alley with the Stayton Fire Department, who checked to make sure fire procedures had been adequately followed. Firefighters responding to the call told Sessums she and her crew actually saved the kitchen by following protocol and using the K extinguisher.

“My husband and, of course, Christy came out as it was just myself and a cook working that night,” Sessums said. “After cleaning everything up, we were able to get the stove and flat top working so we could open for regular business.”

Meanwhile, the café had no ovens to cook the 580 pounds of turkey for the upcoming community dinner.

“We decided to order a new stove hoping that it would be here in time,” Sessums said. “Monday, we created a backup plan.”

The North Santiam School District came to the rescue by offering the use of two kitchens to cook the turkeys. Others, including Moxieberry, jumped in with offers to help. The Covered Bridge crew would pick up the turkeys and bring them to their kitchen to slice and broth, and then on the morning of the community dinner, take all – including 37 pans of stuffing – to the Lovin’ Oven, whose crew would finish the cooking.

“It was really going to be harder than ever getting and keeping everything at temp,” Sessums said. “Christy and I were in tears just knowing we could have lost everything, and facing how we were going to pull off the community dinner with no ovens.”

A Friday morning call from the freight company put smiles back on their faces – the oven would be delivered that day!

“We closed to put the new ovens in, and by Friday afternoon we were back in and would be able to do the community dinner without driving turkeys all over Stayton,” Sessums said.

Despite the challenges, the Covered Bridge Café served more than 1,400 meals on the day before Thanksgiving. Some 80 volunteers served dinners to those who dined at the restaurant, and almost 700 meals were packaged and delivered by the Stayton Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

“We had some families that were so thankful for this dinner,” Sessums said. “One gentleman in the dining room share with a server he had just lost his job and didn’t know what he would do next. A volunteer heard this and reached out with employment for him.”

Sessums told of firefighters who had been called to assist a lady who had fallen.

“The firefighters on call got her up and then drove down to the Bridge,” she said. “We prepared her a meal, and they took
it to her. That is how great our community is.”

One family, homeless and struggling, thanked Sessums for feeding them. The mom told her, “After investing every penny we had in the motel we are staying in, I was not sure how I was going to feed my kids tonight, and then I heard about this wonderful little café that was feeding families at no cost. My kids left happy with full bellies. We cannot thank
you enough!”

Sessums wants to thank everyone who came and shared a piece of themselves with others at a table, saying “lots of good stories of kindness and generosity” were shared, making a difference in more than a few lives.

“It was a wonderful evening with a lot of community spirit,” Sessums said.

“Thank you to every volunteer that took the time to help us, our amazing staff for days of hard work preparing food, and our families that gave countless hours. We could not have done this without all of you!”

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