New Freedom to serve Thanksgiving meal to entire community
By Shelley Widhalm
Every Thanksgiving New Freedom Outreach Center turns its café and church into a dining hall and invites the public to come in for a free meal.
The 12th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner will be 1-4 p.m. Nov. 22 at the Cornerstone Café, 250 Mountain Ave., for the homeless and those in need, as well as those who may not have family or friends in the area or a place to go.
“The café is kind of small, so we spread it out,” said Maranda Rider, manager of the café at New Freedom.
The meal is served at the 20 tables in the café, plus 15 to 20 additional tables that will be set up in the hallway. If more space is needed, additional tables will be brought out to the sanctuary and any other available space, she said.
Last year, 250 to 300 people attended the dinner, but Rider hopes for a turnout of 400 people this year.
“We believe it’s so important that we take care of people who are not fed as well, who are not taken care of as well,” said The Rev. Bert Morrison, a pastor at the church. “It’s to give them the opportunity to come in; and we can spend time with them, bless them, pray with them, show them people care.”
Approximately 75 volunteers from the church and the community help out by setting up the tables, serving the food, and doing the cleanup and tear down, working in 30-minute shifts.
“It’s just a huge spread of food,” Rider said. “I’ve never run out of food, and I’ve been able to feed everyone who comes through the door. The doors open, and people come in and out. It’s almost perfect how people come in and others get up and leave. They keep flowing all day long.”
The food comes from donations from the congregation and includes the traditional Thanksgiving items of turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and other side dishes and all kinds of desserts. Rider compiles a list of the needed items, and members of the congregation sign up for what they want to bring the day before and the day of Thanksgiving.
“By one, we have everything we need to open the doors and serve the community,” Rider said.
Most of the food arrives already prepared, but a few of the items will need additional prep work of cooking and carving, a task Rider and her husband, Bryan Cox, undertake in the café’s kitchen.
“We do a lot more cooking than we plan, but that’s OK because the food is here and people get fed,” Rider said, adding the event is her favorite day of the year. “We get to serve. Jesus was a servant. It’s a huge deal to serve and be part of a community and bless people.”
The dinner had its start when the church became part of the 137 Inclement Weather Night Shelter, operated by the 137 Homeless Connection in Loveland, in partnership with local churches. The churches rotate each week to provide an overnight shelter for homeless residents during inclement weather from November to February.
Every year New Freedom hosts the homeless the Sunday before Thanksgiving through the Sunday after the holiday for overnight stays and dinner meals, including the Thanksgiving meal. The church, which also is a host the week of Christmas and in February, decided to invite the entire community for the Thanksgiving meal.
“We want to feed the homeless, of course, but we wanted to extend it to everyone,” Rider said. “It’s for anybody and everybody, not just the church, not just the homeless. It’s for everybody. All the church people, all the people coming off the street, all the homeless people all end up sitting together. They are at the same table, eating the same food.”
Those interested in volunteering, can contact Rider at 344-5360 or sign up in the cafe. They also can show up that day.
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