November 25, 2015

Under My Skin to serve Thanksgiving dinner

umsBob Ellis/staff photographer
Cooking a Thanksgiving meal at the Salvation Army in Cortland will be, left to right, Gregg Cuthbert, Joe Pittsley, Robert Stauber and Danielle Stauber.

Associate Editor

Gregg Cuthbert will wake up about 4:30 Thursday morning, drag his sleep-deprived self into the Salvation Army citadel on Main Street in Cortland and turn on the lights at 6 a.m.
He’ll stare 150 pounds of potatoes in the eyes. They’ll stare back.
He’ll peel them. Then peel 150 pounds of sweet potatoes. Then get the 35 turkeys in the oven. That’s his Thanksgiving. Cuthbert is one of a handful of organizers and 30 volunteers who will spend their Thanksgiving cooking for a family of strangers.
“It’s all homemade,” said Cuthbert, president of local chapter of the Under My Skin for Life Foundation. “We believe in giving a full meal.”
Under My Skin raises money for community causes: to replace the Wickwire Pool, or to support Puzzle Solvers, a nonprofit promoting autism awareness and help for families.
This week, it’s Thanksgiving, and the group wanted to do something on the big day, although Loaves and Fishes had a similar event Friday.
“It’s just something I thought we needed,” Cuthbert said.
So on Tuesday and today, he and his friends will harvest the bounty stored in walk-in coolers and freezers in town — he mentions Pontillo’s Restaurant and CP Cash and Carry as two donors of space — and drop them off at the Salvation Army, which had a Thanksgiving event until 2013.
Then there’s the peeling, and the chopping, and the cutting, basting, lifting, hauling, serving, roasting, baking, boiling and bustling. Last year, Under My Skin served 198 dinners. Maybe they’ll do more this year.
So what’s it take?
• 35 turkeys
• 25 hams
• 150 pounds of potatoes
• 150 pounds of sweet potatoes
• 1 12-gallon keg of gravy
• Stuffing, don’t forget the stuffing
• 10 trays of baked ziti
• 10 trays of macaroni and cheese
• As many pies, cakes, cookies, cupcakes and dessert items as a bevy of bakers can bring
Broccoli, cauliflower — Cuthbert runs out of breath before he runs out of menu. “We try to sit down and have dinner together,” he said. “It doesn’t always work out.”
Guests will start arriving at noon, and filter in and out until 6 p.m., dining, listening to the music and perhaps enjoying each other’s company.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re broke or have a million dollars in the bank,” Cuthbert said. Some may need a ride and cabbies will donate their time to provide them.
After the guests leave, Cuthbert and his friends will start cleaning up. Last year, it took until midnight — 18 hours of Thanksgiving with neither a post-dinner nap nor a football game.
“If one person is happy, it worked,” Cuthbert said.
Cuthbert hopes to stumble back into his home sometime after midnight, drunk with success, basking in good will, and exhausted beyond belief. Then he’ll begin plans for something similar around Easter.
Someone hand the man an egg nog.

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