Thursday afternoon, the back building of the Second Baptist Church in Garden City, usually housing the church’s weekly Stew Pot soup kitchen, will be opened to the community, for the first time serving a free Thanksgiving meal to anyone who finds its door.

“That’s what we do, we feed,” said Pastor William Simon of Second Baptist.

The community holiday dinner is one of several around Garden City this holiday week, including Trinity Lutheran Church’s dinner on Tuesday and the Garden City Elks Lodge’s on Thanksgiving. At all of them, local organizations are trying to provide a slice of home and togetherness for friends, family and people who may have nowhere else to go.

Second Baptist’s inaugural dinner, supported by La Iglesia Discipulos de Cristo and First United Methodist Church Men’s Emmaus group, will serve free turkey, dressing, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls and drinks to the public between 1 and 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Simon said.

The event is a natural extension of the church’s soup kitchen ministry, spurred by the attempt to reach people the long-running Trinity Lutheran dinner may not be able to reach, Simon said. It is a way for the church to inspire unity, practice compassion and meet the needs of the needy, he said.

A key component of that is offering a warm meal to Garden City Community College students, particularly student-athletes who must stay on campus over the break, Simon said. He said the church had donated to the GCCC Endowment Association before, but this was a chance to impact students more directly.

“We wanted to, this time, to give something back, and not just give a currency … We’d be able to touch the community instead of just one (student). That was our whole idea … We wanted to touch every student, especially those that are in need or those away from home,” Simon said.

The same mission lies at the heart of Trinity Lutheran’s dinner, which began over 20 years ago largely to serve the same demographic, said Katy Pauley, the church’s secretary.

On Tuesday, church staff and volunteers, headed by cook Nancy Foreman, prepared enough turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, vegetables, rolls and pie for 200 people, serving them to a rotating door of guests, many of whom were church members or older residents, for a goodwill donation of $5.

Later in the week, attendees would travel across city limits and state borders to visit family or stay in for celebrations. But, for the moment, they enjoyed each other’s food and company.

“This meal is for the community more than the church…" Carlene Schweer, a member of Trinity Lutheran, said at the dinner. "It’s kind of nice to know that the community … that can’t maybe afford or don’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving, can come in and be with us.”

Pastor Michael Hageman, new this year to the church, said the dinner was an excellent means of community outreach and possibly helping some people who don’t attend church often find themselves under one’s roof.

“I think it’s just the idea of what Thanksgiving in general comes forward with,” Hageman said. “You think of family, and there’s a lot of people that just don’t have family around, and so it gives them opportunities to come and have a Thanksgiving meal, to talk to people. We’re built on relationships, and this is one of the things that allows for that to happen.”

The Garden City Elks Lodge, holding its second annual community Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, took a slightly different approach, using the holiday centered on gratitude to thank local veterans and first responders.

The dinner is open to the public, but veterans and first responders, plus one guest, eat for free, said Linda Velez, an officer at the lodge.

“I think the way we view veterans today is not always in the best of light, especially the Vietnam veterans. We think it’s a good idea to show them our support and how grateful we are that we get to sleep safely at night because of the sacrifices they gave,” Velez said.

Many veterans are older and do not have a place to eat and relax on Thanksgiving, and are unable or not eager to cook a big meal for just themselves or a spouse, Velez said. Last year, guests loved the chance to walk in and share the meal together, she said.

Formerly just for veterans, the dinner was expanded this year to include first responders in the attempt to honor more locals that put their life on the line for others’ safety, she said.

The Elks will serve a homemade menu, save smoked turkey from Rib Crib, including roasted turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, cream corn, orange salad, stuffed mushrooms, pumpkin tiramisu, pies and chocolate cake, as well as several drinks available for purchase, Velez said. She said she was expecting about 100 people.

As they did last year, the Elks will take leftover food to homebound veterans, officers at the Finney County Sheriff’s Office and Garden City Police Department and the Emmaus House, Velez said.

When veterans and officers finish their meals, she said she hoped they walk away with a full belly and a feeling of appreciation.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have a place to go on Thanksgiving. That’s probably the big driving force…” Velez said. “It’s good to be around a crowd of people. I mean, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about. Good friends, good food, good wine, no gifts to buy, no stress, no pressure. And you should be able to share that with somebody.”


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