News

Banquet named 'Cheryl Fitch Community Christmas Dinner’

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Congregants at Delhi United Church are laying the groundwork for the inaugural Cheryl Fitch Community Christmas Dinner Dec. 25. Members of the organizing committee include, from left, Ruth Brown of Delhi, Andy Fitch of Delhi, and Mariette Stefek, chair of the Delhi United Church board of directors. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

Congregants at Delhi United Church are laying the groundwork for the inaugural Cheryl Fitch Community Christmas Dinner Dec. 25. Members of the organizing committee include, from left, Ruth Brown of Delhi, Andy Fitch of Delhi, and Mariette Stefek, chair of the Delhi United Church board of directors. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

DELHI, ON - 

Rev. Cheryl Fitch is no longer here to help organize the annual Christmas Day banquet in Delhi.

However, anytime anyone speaks of the event going forward, her name will be on everyone’s lips.

The congregation at Delhi United Church wants the community to know there will be a free banquet at the church on Christmas Day.

And they also want the community to know that it will be referred to from now on as the Cheryl Fitch Community Christmas Dinner.

Fitch, 59, fell ill last fall. She was diagnosed with esophageal cancer Dec. 12. She was soon on oxygen and - by Jan. 4 – she was gone.

Fitch’s demise coincided with a period of intense preparation for last year’s banquet, which Fitch initiated some 13 years earlier.

There was some doubt as to whether there would even be a banquet last year, but parishioners and community volunteers agreed to press forward in honour of her effort.

“We’re all still struggling with her passing,” Mariette Stefek, chair of the Delhi United Church board, said Sunday. “Everyone is mourning the loss of the minister. But some of us are also mourning the loss of a very good friend.

“We’re moving ahead because we know Cheryl would want us to.”

It’s important to get the word out so that traditional volunteers, potential attendees and donors have ample notice of what’s to come.

Rev. Debra Hinksman was recently appointed as the new minister at Delhi United. She is looking forward to participating in her first community Christmas banquet in Delhi.

“It was clear from the beginning that this church was committed to making certain this wonderful event would continue,” Hinksman said last week in a statement.

“As much as we still deeply grieve Cheryl’s passing, the congregation of Delhi United is happy that we continue this beloved gathering and keep her commitment to community alive.”

The banquets attract upward of 100 people.

Fitch established the event on the principle that everyone should have somewhere to go Christmas Day to enjoy a good meal and good fellowship. No one, Fitch believed, should have to sit home alone on Christmas Day if they don’t want to.

Fitch was strong enough to attend Delhi United’s annual Christmas service in the weeks before her passing. She did not deliver the sermon but did administer communion. Many congregants didn’t know her condition was terminal until she was gone.

“I don’t know why it happened,” widower Andy Fitch, of Delhi, said Sunday. “I can’t explain it. She didn’t want to ruin anyone’s Christmas.”

As confirmation that the tradition lives on, be advised that anyone in Delhi and surrounding area who would enjoy a turkey dinner with all the trimmings on Christmas should be in the banquet hall at Delhi United at noon Dec. 25. Don’t be late because they will start without you.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com