An 84-year Haliburton tradition is coming to an end this month after St. George’s Anglican Church announced it is cancelling its annual Shrove Tuesday community pancake supper.

The news was first delivered to the church’s congregation late last month, with Louise Sisson, who has helped out with the event since the 1970s and been lead organizer since 2015, saying a significant drop-off in volunteers was to blame.

“It takes about five weeks of planning to get a list of people together, see what’s coming in for donations and determine what we need to buy or source from elsewhere… we haven’t been able to get very far with that process this year, because we don’t have enough people,” Sisson told The Highlander. “Usually, we have more than 50 volunteers help us. This year, I only had 15 sign up.”

The beginnings of the event date back to 1939, when it was launched by the congregation’s Women’s Auxiliary. Back then it was held at the town hall on Maple Avenue, though was later hosted at the old Orange Hall, the church building on Mountain Street and, finally, the Haliburton Legion.

It was the “perfect way” for churchgoers to kick off their Lenten season, Sisson said, which involves 40 days of fasting, and generally prohibits those practising from consuming meat, eggs, dairy, fish, wine, and oils.

“Pigging out on pancakes the night before was always great, because it allowed us to use up all our [food] reserves, and also helped your mind get where it needs to be for the 40 days of Lent,” she said.

Phyllis Bishop is another who poured her heart and soul into the event. She has been volunteering, in some capacity, since the 1960s. During that time, she has held near enough every position – from general helper to pie cutter, greeter to server. In the late 1990s, she assumed leadership of the supper from Aveline Petch.

Church remains committed to its fundraising efforts

By that point, the dinner was “a well-oiled machine” being held at the Legion. Bishop said that, for many years, the pancake supper was one of the biggest winter events in the County, attended by hundreds of people. As well as being served two or three hearty pancakes, attendees were also offered sausages, homemade coleslaw, and pie for dessert.

The volunteers always ate too, said Lindsey Coates, who has been assisting since 1990.

“One of my favourite memories was about 20 years ago, we had such a huge turnout for the supper that we ran out of pancakes and sausages. Fortunately, we did feed the community before this occurred,” Coates said. “What to feed the hungry and weary volunteers? Thanks to a generous parishioner, we ordered pizza.”

While the event was always free, the church started to collect donations around the time Bishop took over. In the early years, they would raise a few hundred dollars, which was used to support a variety of church initiatives. In the 2000s, with demand growing at places like the 4Cs Food Bank in Haliburton, the congregation switched gears, making more of a concerted effort to support organizations, and people, in need.

“We decided that we wanted to stand for something, rather than just be,” Sisson said. “We focused on local outreach. We found there was such great need in our community.”

The church would raise around $10,000 per year, with a sizeable chunk of that coming from the pancake supper – between $2,000 and $3,000, according to Sisson. That money has filtered through to organizations such as Places for People, the Youth Hub operated by Point in Time, Volunteer Dental Outreach, the 4Cs, the Pregnancy Care and Family Support Centre, and Heat Bank Haliburton County.

Even though the pancake supper is no more, Sisson said the church remains committed to its fundraising efforts.

“It is the end of a tradition that has served the community for many, many years. We are sad, but our church will continue to support local charities. This year, the 4Cs Food Bank will be the recipient of all donations received in support of our new Shrove Tuesday Fundraising Campaign,” Sisson said.

Since launching a couple of weeks ago, the new operation has raised more than $500. Sisson is confident of bringing in at least $2,000 by Feb. 21. People can donate by visiting the church on Sundays or making an e-transfer to office@haliburtonanglican. ca. Charitable tax receipts are available upon request.