The scent of freshly cooked turkey has been wafting through much of First Christian Church since Monday, when preparation began for one of today’s two free holiday meals.
Volunteer cook Rick Herman, a former restaurant and catering manager, had just prepared 10 25-pound birds and 15 slightly smaller turkey breasts in the church’s five commercial ovens.
That’s part of the food expected to be served to hundreds of diners today — people with nowhere else to go or those simply looking for broader fellowship, according to organizers. Anyone is welcome to drop in, with no reservations necessary.
“When you get to use the gifts and abilities that God has given you to bless others, it’s really fun,” Herman said.
If that’s true, then dozens of volunteers at First Christian and Columbus Baptist Church will be having loads of enjoyment on a day marked for gratitude and counting blessings. That’s what unfolded with the dinners last year.
One woman on Franklin Street was touched when the Rev. Charles Kennedy, Columbus Baptist’s pastor, stopped to deliver her meal and asked if she needed prayer. She began to cry because her husband was in a nursing home. Kennedy offered a prayer for both of them.
At First Christian, a woman told one of the volunteers she was glad she came. “We just felt so much love in the room,” the woman said. “And yet, it was from total strangers.”
Delivery reservations are slightly down this year, according to organizers, who are uncertain why.
Yet, they did tell residents a couple of weeks ago that they would compare the two churches’ delivery lists to avoid delivering multiple meals to the same household.
“Maybe that (lower number) simply shows that more people are planning to dine in,” said Diane Doup, community outreach coordinator for Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, which brought both churches together to avoid home-meal delivery duplication.
Last year, the church’s dine-in number grew slightly over 2010’s total.
“I think a lot of people have waited until the last minute (to sign up for a delivery),” Kennedy said.
Columbus Baptist expects to deliver about 450 meals today — down 110 from last year. And First Christian has 231 deliveries set, 140 fewer than last year.
With extra food last year, Columbus Baptist’s drivers also brought meals unannounced to an ambulance service and a liquor store.
Columbus Baptist fed 594 people in house and through deliveries last Thanksgiving, according to organizers. First Christian fed 617 people total.
“This is simply my way of giving back to God all he has given me and giving back to the community,” said Wilma Compton, coordinator of Columbus Baptist’s meal. She said she is grateful to be part of a church where so many people are willing to help
Others not affiliated with the churches are assisting. For example, a few volunteers from FedEx are helping the churches’ volunteer drivers with route logistics to help them deliver meals as efficiently as possible, according to FedEx’s Cindy Ott.
Doup mentioned that First Christian got far more calls from prospective volunteers than the church actually could use. She saw that as a blessing.
She said, “I think that it shows that a lot of people are thinking of others in the community.”