A community feast
LE MARS — The smell of roasting turkey has been filling Rejoice! Community Church for a couple of weeks in preparation for the Community Thanksgiving Banquet this Thursday.
This is the 15th year Rejoice! has hosted the dinner, which draws in volunteers from the community.
“It has grown from 2005 when 75 people showed up, and now we are preparing food for 600, and I believe, it’s hard to get a count, we served between 575 and 600 last year. We go through a lot of food. We always prepare extra in case we would get extra people coming,” said Adri Ruisch, a church member and key volunteer for the meal.
This year they prepared 56 large turkeys, all baked in the ovens at the church.
“All the food is homemade, it’s just not fixed outside the church walls. We have teams that come in and cook on Wednesdays with me,” she explained.
Even the pies are baked at the church now, rather than people preparing them at home.
Teams of volunteers will be at the church Wednesday (today), getting all things set up.
Some food items prepared ahead of time has been frozen and will be thawed at the appropriate time.
Ruisch explained Mike Wells will be come early Thursday morning to pick up the food that needs to be heated.
“He will take it and bring it all up to the proper temperature and then bring it back to the church about 10:15 a.m.,” she said. “Thanks to Mike and Cheryl, all the food is heated professionally, to proper temperature. Rejoice! is extremely concerned about doing the meal in a manner so that no one is at risk.”
Banquet guests will feast on turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, sweet potato casserole, bread and butter, and choice of pie and ice cream.
There is no charge for the meal, Ruisch noted.
Earlier this month, members and others were able to donate from a specified list of ingredients needed to prepare the meal, from canned items, to brown sugar and more.
“And then the businesses came on board with donations, too,” Ruisch said.
Monetary donations were also received, as they had to purchase the turkeys this year.
Delivery of meals is an important component of the Thanksgiving Banquet.
At 8:30 a.m., Thursday, teams of volunteers will come in and pack the cold food items, using bags donated by local fast food restaurants, Ruisch explained.
“About 10:30 a.m., new crews come in and we have the hot food line,” she continued.
While some people have already called for their meal to be delivered, Ruisch said someone will man the telephone, at 548-4430, until 1 p.m., for any who wants a meal delivered.
People who need a ride to the meal may call that same number, and the church bus accessible for everyone, will come and pick them up.
Pastor Mike Metten is in his sixth year at Rejoice!
While a lot of things have stayed the same with the meal, other things have expanded.
“I think the delivery part of it has continued to grow. We’ve also stepped that up, not just delivering meals to someone who has called in, but we also have changed so we deliver meals to those who are working, at the police department, at the county jail, and delivering to the inmates. It’s changed that way,” Metten said.
“It’s not at all just a Rejoice! project. There’s a lot of businesses that contribute, donating turkeys and other items, and private individuals as well,” Metten said. “It’s really a community event and we get the pleasure of hosting it.”
Weather conditions may also impact the dinner.
“In years past, when we’ve had bad weather, people in town who were planning to drive an hour or two to grandma’s house and couldn’t, but they didn’t have a Thanksgiving meal prepared, would end up coming here because plans got messed up,” he said.
“There are also families who come here that this is their family Thanksgiving,” he said.
He went on to say one family has members who come from three different states, who gather at Rejoice! and make this their Thanksgiving tradition.
“There’s a lot of cool stories with it,” Metten said.
Why does Rejoice! do it?
“Part of it goes back to our mission and vision, which is to simply reach the community with the love and message of Jesus Christ,” Metten said.
“That’s our mission, our vision. So the way this helps us to do that, this meal offers fellowship, and we’re hopefully building relationships with people outside of the church. That’s why we exist as a church, for the people who are not served,” Metten said.
The meal is made available to the community by Rejoice! Community Church and area businesses and volunteers.
“On behalf of all of us, we thank everyone, because it is a tremendous effort that goes very well, an all home-cooked meal. We give thanks to God for this opportunity to serve,” Ruisch said.