Archive for Wednesday, December 1, 2004

A feast of friends

None are starved for food or fellowship during holiday meal

December 1, 2004

Before filing away the Thanksgiving holiday, take a minute and remember back to a week ago.

Did you have family members nearby? Did you spend the day cooking with mothers, sisters, aunts and nieces? Maybe you watched a little football with the old man, his brothers or your own before sitting down to the table?

Remember your meal: were there plenty of fixings passed around the table? Was there an endless buffet of trimmings flanked by a huge turkey browned to a perfect crisp? Did you leave enough room for a slice of mom's pumpkin pie and/or a scoop of grandma's apple dumplings?

Now know this: some people, real people, not just the faceless beings that statistics so often portray in the abstract, but real people from your hometown, neighborhood, maybe even the street you live on, didn't have the same luxuries.

It may be too late for that notion to be of any good for this past Thanksgiving, but it can be recalled in time for the December holidays.

Fortunately for Bonner Springs, Basehor and other local community residents that would have gone without on Thanksgiving, there were dozens of volunteers that didn't forget the less fortunate last Thursday.

At Bonner Springs United Methodist Church, two dozen volunteers spent time away from their loved ones to dish out meals to those that would have either been alone or gone hungry on Thanksgiving.

It marked the 10th consecutive year that local volunteers have gone the extra mile for someone else.

"In the spirit of Thanksgiving, it seemed like we should be sharing," said LeAnne DeTar Newbert, coordinator of Thursday's feast and a member of First Christian Church in Bonner Springs.

The idea behind the dinner came to Newbert during a church leadership retreat in 1994. She said church members were planning a Thanksgiving feast for the congregation when the idea emerged to dole out the food to people in need.

"It had occurred to me at that time that we all had plenty -- we sure didn't need two dinners," said Newbert. "It seemed like a waste because we already had plenty."

Instead of taking praise for her idea, Newbert reinforced the idea of sharing Thursday. She reluctantly talked about her own contributions and instead spoke glowingly about the assistance of the community and the volunteers that make the free meal possible.

Newbert said neither help nor food runs in short supply for the meal.

"Now I don't even need to ask for volunteers," she said. "I always have more come than I have work for. I have to find work for them."

In addition to the volunteers, area churches also contribute by donating pies (Sacred Heart), cornbread dressing (Olivet Church of God and Christ) and First Christian Church (in charge of making home deliveries). Local woman Dorothy Klamm cooked the turkeys and the Bonner Springs Lion's Club takes leftovers from the meal to the City Union Mission in Kansas City, Mo.

Basehor resident Dixie Kreider volunteered for her first community feast this year, but she's no stranger to volunteering for worthy causes. She's volunteered to work at soup kitchens in the past and also helped deliver for Meals on Wheels.

"I'm grateful I have what I have," Kreider said of volunteering. "It makes you value what you've got even more."

Last Thursday, she served sweet potatoes, sliced pies and handed out salt and pepper, among other tasks.

"You get to meet a lot of people," Kreider said. "Everybody works together. It's a fun thing.

"If I get a chance (to volunteer again) I will -- it's a good thing."

Newbert said some people come to the meal out of economic need but that most attend because they would otherwise be alone on Thanksgiving.

A quick glance around the tables inside the dining room produces moments that back up the Newbert's claim that people come to the meal for fellowship as well as food: instead of a seating of strangers, the meal quickly appears to the onlooker as more of a feast of friends. Laughter from guests and volunteers, the clink and clatter of dishes and an organist's peaceful tunes provide the background noise, but it's tough to block out the visual.

"This is one of the most important American holidays," Newbert said. "I think it really helps people that they aren't going to be alone."

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