Roast beef dinner a 30-year tradition in Churdan

John Hunt and Joyce Clark are on the dinner committee
John Hunt and Joyce Clark are on the dinner committee

The annual roast beef dinner at the Churdan United Methodist Church isn’t just a fundraiser. For church members and their families, it’s a reunion, a time to work together and talk together and laugh together.

While the congregation gets smaller and older, the beef dinner, held at the end of March every year, draws younger generations back to help out. “They’re good people, and it’s good to see them,” said Carri Stein of Jefferson.

The first beef dinner, held in 1984, was her first year out of college, Stein remembers. She helped her grandparents, Doris Winkelman and Robert and Pauline Berns, and her parents, Bob and Arlyne Berns, at the dinner. She’s gone back most years since then, drafting her husband Gerry, and their daughters Kayla, Lauren and Hannah, too. Last year Carri was unable to be there, but Gerry and Hannah helped. This year Carri and Hannah plan to help.

Little has changed over the years. The menu remains a traditional, family-style roast beef dinner, with mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet corn, salad, homemade rolls and homemade pie. In the early years the meal was served on heavy “church kitchen” plates. Now they use “good quality throw-away,” organizer Joyce Clark confessed.

The sweet corn is a tradition of its own. Gary and Wendy Mount plant an extra plot of sweet corn every year. The donated corn is harvested, cut off the cob and prepared for freezing all in the same July day. Twenty or 25 volunteers show up on Corn Day and they freeze 35 gallons of corn. Thirty are used for the beef dinner and the rest is enjoyed at other church dinners.

Stein said she often helps at the salad table because that’s the job her parents generally help with. She has also shuttled pieces of pie to the dessert table.

Other roles have repeated over the years. Janice Tilley lines up the pie bakers and for many years, it was Frank and Shirley Drayer who cut the pies. “They remembered from year to year who liked what kind of pie. There were a few who really loved gooseberry pie, and Frank and Shirley were always sure to hold back a few pieces so they would have it for them,” Stein said.

Clark remembers finding a stray piece of pie, usually sour cream raisin, that was hidden away for later.

Freshly ground horseradish is another special part of the dinner. Most years the horseradish comes from Greene County gardens. This year, the ground is still too frozen to allow digging up horseradish. The Plan B horseradish is being sent by a church member in Florida. It won’t be ground until just a couple days before the dinner.

Bob and Arlyne Berns aren’t the only ones with a younger generation that helps. Others include Joyce and Duane Clark and their daughters Sherry Graven and Teresa Mobley, and Donna and John Hunt and their daughter Linda Kesselring. There are others, too.

The dinner has proven to be a good fundraiser, with the busy crew feeding 350 to 400 persons each year. Carry-outs are available by calling 515-389-3181.

“It’s a good, home cooked meal for a  good cause. It’s worth the short drive to Churdan,” Stein said. “You can’t go away hungry. There’s just so much good food.”

Tickets are $9 for adults and $4 for children and are available at the door.

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