The little unincorporated village of Seneca sits on the line between central and mountain time zones. It is on the western edge of Thomas County, which is in central time, and just west, one enters Hooker County and the mountain time zone.

No one knows when the tradition started of the Seneca United Church of Christ’s turkey dinner fundraiser. The historical papers were lost, but in visiting with those who have been here the longest, it was safe to call it No. 79 and holding.

The dessert table

Lavina Sevier was married to Bus Sevier 72 years ago, moving to Seneca in 1965.

“This was going on for several years before we came here,” she said at this year’s dinner on Oct. 31. Lavina is 91 this year.

June Morrison, age 100, from Mullen, remembered it as a youngster when they moved to town. (Interesting fact – June taught Lavina when she was a fourth grader).

From left: June Morrison, 100, and Lavina Sevier, 91.

Mary Lou Harding of Mullen also knows the event is older than she by several years.

“I helped my mom when I was a youngster,” she said.

Let’s just say Mary Lou is not far into her seventh decade.

Dan Daly counts people as they come in. At times he holds babies while parents get their plates. 

Other traditions have been added to the dinner — a bazaar of donated items from members and friends, including baked goods, cutlery, boxes of greeting cards to name a few of the items that were for sale, to add dollars to the coffers.

No one knows when they added the aspect of homemade horseradish. Friends dig up their horseradish, bringing it to a central location. That location used to be Lavina’s, but this year it was the home of Bob and Connie Broweleit of Seneca. This occurs about two weeks before the dinner; it takes work and tears to get the pint-size jars filled with this Sandhills delicacy. This year, a record number of jars were filled — 204 to be exact.

Some of the 204 pints.

If you have not been around when they make horseradish, the smell clears the sinuses and causes tears to flow. Well-placed boxes of tissues are a necessity. (Not all jars were sold, if you would like some, contact Donna Reynolds. The cost is $5 per jar; if they need shipped, that is extra)

Sevier and her friend, Nadene Andersen, oversaw the organization for 20-plus years. Andersen resides now at the Pioneer Care Center in Mullen.  

For the last few years, the dinner has been coordinated by Donna Reynolds of Mullen, who caters meals. She gets much help from her son Jody who does the heavy lifting — bringing extra tables, etc.

The 2020 dinner did not happen due to Covid-19.

Since it was Halloween, the workers donned their red hats. From left: Marla Sonnefelt, Deb Daly, Mary Lou Harding, Christine Sack, the young gentleman is Cruz Sack, Donna Reynolds, Wanda Simonson and Connie Broweleit.

The following numbers are from the 2021 Seneca Turkey Dinner:

  • Cost has gone from free will donation to $10, a bargain considering what one enjoys.
  • There were 300 sets of plastic silverware wrapped and prepared. Nine sets were left. A multitude of takeout meals were made for homebound friends, so it is safe to say more than 300 meals were served.
  • 185 pounds of roasted turkey (three roasters full); very little left. 
  • 85 pounds of potatoes peeled and mashed; some instant mixed in to assure all had some.
  • 8 gallons of corn; nearly all gone
  • 150 rolls purchased; few left
  • 3 roasters of homemade dressing (stuffing) with some Stove Top added to assure all had some.
  • 5 gallon thermoses of tea and water, refilled three times. One 100-cup coffee pot as well as a smaller one was made; not much leftover.
  • More than two dozen homemade salads from church members and friends, with that many desserts contributed as well; again, very little leftover.
Full house

Having two different time zones helps, as the central time zone eaters are present when the doors open at 11 a.m. MT and vacate their chairs for those coming after church in the central time zone. The line stretches from one end of the Seneca auditorium to the other for at least a half hour. If one leaves hungry, it is their own fault. Stragglers continue to come in until after 1 p.m. MT.

Besides the good food, fellowship abounds between friends and neighbors who do not see each other much through the year. Despite the small number of volunteers who do the work; hopefully, this tradition of feeding the multitudes by the few will continue for years to come.

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