One thing’s certain in these uncertain times: all Cochrane families can go and enjoy a pretty tasty free breakfast on Labour Day thanks to the team at the Cochrane Alliance Church.
“This year, it’ll be different in that it’s a drive-thru pancake breakfast,” said pastor Jason Koleba.
“We will cook sausage and pancakes safely, those will be placed in closed containers and handled appropriately, and then we’ll have parking lot attendants and people who will kind of guide vehicles in the right direction.”
As one might expect the breakfast isn’t normally in a drive-thru format, but the pastor said the church was motivated and willing to adapt.
“We felt that we needed to have some conversations with the RCMP and the Town of Cochrane and kind of make sure what we are doing is kosher that way,” he added.
“But we feel we can do it, and keep in line with what the officials are asking of us and still have a little way to celebrate the weekend and keep the tradition going.”
‘Tradition’ is right: It’s been decades for pancakes at the Alliance church.
“I’d been on staff since 1997, and our pancake breakfast annual was before I came, so I’m thinking at least twenty-five years,” Koleba said.
“For the past decade or so, we’ve liked to coincide with the Labour Day festivities, with the rodeo and the parade and all that goes on in the town.”
The team at the church initially figured food-based events would be a no-go for this summer, but after consulting with the Calgary Stampede board and examining some of the events that group has been conducting this season they started to change their mind.
“This is something that we have a lot of skill, and a lot of volunteers who love putting it on every year,” he said.
“We rent some equipment from suppliers, but this will be done by our people. We’ve kind of got a smaller group of people that again, it all comes under the COVID guidelines, they’re going to need to be trained, it’s a closed group.”
Those keen on some breakfast treats must register online ahead of time: the breakfast runs from 9-11 a.m., and to make sure they can safely manage traffic flow and demand, attendees need to register their license plate and indicate whether they’ll be arriving in the first or second hour. They can do so through a link available on the ‘Events’ tab of the CochraneAlliance.com web page (for those who might need a hand, give the church a call at 403-932-6100 when they’re open September 2 or 3).
“They’ll come with however many people they registered for, they will receive their breakfast in an enclosed container, and everything they need to enjoy breakfast,” Koleba explained.
“And then, they’re encouraged to enjoy that either in their vehicle or go find a nice spot to enjoy it.”
Whether through the events they’ve hosted, or as a venue of low rental cost in relation to its large size, the Cochrane Alliance Church frequently serves a much broader community than just its own faith.
“I think part of our culture and purpose as a church is that we exist for the good of our community, and we want people to thrive,” he said.
“Obviously a main part of what we do is invest in people’s spiritual development, but we also think it’s critical for us just to invest in the whole person. For a pancake breakfast, it brings people together relationally, it allows us to practice what we preach, serving the town that we love and providing a meal.”
This next feature, pastor Koleba wanted to emphasize that it’s there but it’s entirely optional: Cochranites of any belief system can receive a quick prayer from the comfort of their own vehicle.
“We’re inviting people when they come and get pancakes that we have some of our prayer team available and if people so choose, they’re not required in any way, but we’ll just say ‘Hey, if there’s anything we can pray for,’” he explained.
“We have drive-thru prayer that will be a spot if people would appreciate that, we’d be happy to pray for that.”
The breakfast is designed to be entirely free as opposed to ‘by-donation’. There’ll be other chances coming up later in the month for anyone looking to join the church in their initiatives helping out the local food bank.
“This one, we just want to say to people ‘This is our gift to you, this is a way we get to bless Cochrane and invest in the community,’” Koleba said.
“We are not asking or expecting any kind of donations, this one’s on us.”