Churches Welcome All for Thanksgiving Meals
-By Jackie Campbell-
In many communities across Western PA, United Methodist churches open their doors on Thanksgiving Day to welcome friends and neighbors for a Thanksgiving feast. It’s a love gift and a way to see that no one has to be without a “family”meal on the holiday.
At Beulah Park UMC in McKeesport, church youth, seniors, families and community volunteers help to prepare a community meal. Several families rearranged their family dinners in order to help at the church.
“We are excited,” said the Rev. Kathy Barnhart. “One of my 80-year-old women de-bones all the turkeys on Monday of Thanksgiving week, then we roast and slice. My biggest worry this year is who will make the gravy,” she said.
Beulah Park’s meal is served from 12-2 p.m. on Thanksgiving and volunteers will deliver to anyone unable to come to the church. “Don’t sit home alone; come and join our family,” reads the invitation advertising the meal.
“Last year we only delivered meals to shut-ins and families who were in need, most of them not church-affilated,” said Barnhart. “The school district guidance counselor helped us with names. We worked with the Catholic parish in Mckeesport and had a blast.”
This year, Barnhart said, Beulah Park will work with their sister church, Christy Park UMC, to provide the meal, including the delivery and takeouts. They served about 100 take-outs last year.
In its second year, the Thanksgiving meal at Coraopolis UMC is expanding to provide bus transportation for residents in a nearby housing community. Read how the ministry got started.
New CastleThe seven churches of the New Castle Cooperative Ministry, which formed two years ago, assist with the preparation and serving of a community Thanksgiving meal. “We will be serving over 400 meals and partnering with First Presbyterian Church, said Pastor Thom Scott.
North EastThis will be the fourth annual Thanksgiving Day meal for the community at Park UMC in North East. It was started by Dr. Rev. Mark Hecht and his wife, who moved to Warren, PA this year, and Park is carrying on the tradition.
“Last year we fed 100 to 120 on Thanksgiving Day,” said Shari Cooney, who is coordinating the effort for the first time. “The response I heard the most from both church members and those from community was how nice it was to share a table with others rather that eating alone," she said. Others appreciated sharing the joys of Thanksgiving Day. Many remarked that the church was so welcoming that they would return and maybe help with the meal next time.
Tedious food preparations are actually fun when you work with others in the kitchen, according some of the Park volunteers.
Point MarionPoint Marion UMC will host a free community meal for the second consecutive year. The menu includes a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and beyond, including turkey, ham loaf, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, green beans, desserts, beverages. “Last year 65 people were served, many of whom are clients served by our monthly food bank,” the Rev. Bev Roscoe said. “Others were those who are elderly, single, or just didn't want to cook! We are expecting a larger turnout this year.
The meal will be sponsored by the Outreach team and prepared by Rose and Carl Cook, co-chairs.
CarmichaelsCarmichaels First UMC has a long-standing ministry of providing a free meal to the community every Thanksgiving from 1-4 p.m., said Pastor Bruce Judy. The average attendance is 120 and a lot of helpers. Judy said it was organized and run by laity many years ago and still is, with Carol Maurin in charge this year. “People come as much for the fellowship as they do for the food,” he added. “It is held in our fellowship hall where we serve a free monthly dinner too.”
In addition Thanksgiving Day meals will be served at First UMC in DuBois, Garden City in Monroeville, Otterbein in Greensburg and Ford City UMC, which is handicap accessible.
Thanksgiving Eve in VeronaOther congregations offer meals at different times or in different ways. Verona UMC will provide a community dinner beginning at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, November 26. It is followed by a 7 p.m. community Thanksgiving Eve Service, said Pastor Linda Harrison.
SaegertownThis is the sixth year that Saegertown UMC in the Erie-Meadville District will host a free Thanksgiving dinner for the community on Sunday, Nov. 23. “On average we serve about 350 meals during this event,” said Dulcie Anderson. “For a congregation that averages 200 per week, this is quite the community response.
“We have a wonderful team that floods our building for preparation work the week leading up to the dinner and for the day of the dinner, working tirelessly at cooking, serving, table service, keeping beverages stocked, delivery to community shut-ins, and cleaning up afterwards. We are thrilled yet humbled to be fortunate enough to offer such a wonderful ministry and fellowship to our community,” she added.
The Saegertown church also offers a monthly food pantry with the help of the community ministerium that donates goods and funds regularly to continue the outreach. The food bank serves 20 families every month with a bag of food and hygiene staples and a fresh food voucher from our locally owned market. “During the months of November and December, the food pantry receives donations of turkeys and hams to provide the families with all they would need for their holiday meals, “plus a little extra sweetness from our local suppliers for Christmas.”
Food Bag Ministry at Chippewa
Chippewa UMC in Beaver County is helping 70 families through its Thanksgiving Food Bag ministry this year. Under the direction of the Mission Team, the church collected food over the past few weeks by distributing the food bags to all worshippers in the five weekend worship services. The food bags were brought back and the Mission Teams and other groups sort it provide a very special Thanksgiving for 70 families, said the Rev. Rod Smith. “Families are asked to pray over the bags when they are brought back to help families know that they are being prayed for during the Thanksgiving season,” he said.