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‘Little church in Florida’ serving up chicken dinners

By Staff | Aug 15, 2011

Observant readers of the Pine Island agle have seen a small notice every month announcing a chicken dinner. The Church of God of Prophecy at 15146 Stringfellow Rd. in Bokeelia has held the dinners the second Saturday of each month except July since Pastor Allene Popham arrived here in 1997.

“The church had them before but stopped them,” Popham said. “We started them up again. That’s how we pay our bills.”

At this time of year, her congregation numbers only nine. It swells to 35 to 40 in the winter months as snowbirds come from back from Canada, Pa., Michigan and New York to what they call “their little church in Florida.”

Likewise, the number of dinners and the number of workers needed to prepare them vary by the time of year. In season, the church sells 250 dinners or more. The work crew numbers 18 to 20. In summer, the dinner count is a bit over 100 with five or six cooks.

Popham said more people are around in the summer than when she first started the dinners and served only 15 or 20.

The church has seating for 60 with an overflow area for another 12. In the summer the ratio of eat-in to take-out is close to 50-50. During the winter, about 75 per cent of the orders are for eating on site.

“People seem to enjoy the fellowship,” Popham said. “They like to sit and visit.”

Her workers do the same tasks each month. It’s a long day. They start cooking at 10 a.m. and in season are sometimes still cleaning up at 7:30 p.m.

“But we still learn something every month, an easier way to do something,” Popham said.

The men fry the chicken. Some women prepare vegetables while others bake desserts. Popham herself bakes the coconut cakes. Other popular offerings are chocolate cake, pineapple upside down cake, peanut butter pie and cherry cheese pie. For those with dietary restrictions, they will make the chicken salt-free if notified in advance.

The price of the dinners is holding firm at $6 for now. Popham is conscious of customers on fixed incomes.

For more information, call the church at 283-2128. Dinner is served from 3 to 6 p.m.