Thanksgiving this year gave us more to be thankful for than we ever imagined! Since my congregation, Souls Harbor Church of the Nazarene, began hosting the Community Thanksgiving Dinner five years ago, we have experienced one blessing after another in connection with this community outreach.
From the beginning, we intended this to be a community event, not just something our church did. And, for five years in a row, the community has boldly stepped up and participated.
From giving donations of food and cash, to giving time and energy in preparing and serving food, to helping set up and clean up, it has blessed my heart to see church members and leaders, business leaders, students and families from all over our community stepping up, and working side by side in touching the lives of those in our community.
Last year, we served a total of 435 meals, including 80 Meals on Wheels delivered to shut-ins all over the community.
This year we hoped to break the 500 barrier. As recently as four weeks ago, we wondered if this was going to be possible. Donations were lower than they had been in previous years, and we didnt know if we would have the resources to do all that we hoped.
The leadership team began to pray. And then things started to break loose!
Local business leaders and community members began stepping up to donate, and the calls to help began pouring in.
A special blessing was when we learned that Enrique Martinez, a Woodburn High School senior, decided to target the Community Thanksgiving Dinner for his senior project on fundraising.
We learned at a Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce Greeters meeting that his goal was to raise $1,000! A week later, at the last Greeters before Thanksgiving, he presented us with the fruits of his labors: an envelope with $1,620 in it 62 percent more than his goal! God had provided in unexpected and miraculous ways!
When Thanksgiving Day arrived, so did the people.
We had nearly 120 volunteers show up, most for a shift or two; several for the whole long day that started at 8:30 a.m. with setting up Meals on Wheels, and going until after 5 p.m. when the clearing, cleaning, and resetting were finished. And the people came to eat, too! Lots of them!
From the beginning, this was designed to be an outreach to those in need in our community. Some of the people who came fit the traditional definition of those without financial means.
But others who came were simply alone for the holidays, and just need people to celebrate with. And so all of us, from various cultural backgrounds, from various financial strata, from all age groups, all gathered together to eat, to visit, to enjoy the warm glow of fellowship. And it was good!
When all of the dust had settled, we found that we had not only reached our goal, we had smashed it to bits!
We sent out 148 Meals on Wheels, served meals to 114 volunteers and 337 guests, and sent home an additional 70 meals for people who couldnt come in, for a grand total of 669 meals served!
Special thanks go to the event organizers, Jerry and Ruby Wolfer, and Brian and Brenda Shoup, as well as the more than 100 people from the community who support the Thanksgiving Dinner with their resources and their time. You are all more appreciated than can be said in words.
And, God willing, we will be gathering again next Thanksgiving Day to touch the lives of even more people!