On Thanksgiving Monday, Peter Elgersma and his family rolled up their sleeves to cook for Richmond Hill Community Christian Reformed Church’s second “to-go” thanksgiving dinner. I chatted with Elgersma, a CC board member, about the dinner. Peter and his family, five in total, volunteered to cook and individually package 150 meals for the church’s 28th annual community Thanksgiving dinner. “We wanted to provide for them. We want them to know that we’re thinking about them. We’re trying to give them some of the things they might not necessarily have themselves, like a meal with this kind of variety.”
The packed meals included turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce, carrots, beans, corn, stuffing, and gravy, most of which was made on Thanksgiving Monday between 10 am and 4 pm by the Elgersmas, all from donated food. 75 meals were distributed Thanksgiving evening by Community Church’s youth pastor and deacons. The rest were sent out later that week.
A modified tradition
Peter has been volunteering with cooking and cleaning up Thanksgiving dinner for more than 15 years. For the last ten years he took the lead on coordinating the dinner itself. Last year, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the church knew the dinner was even more essential because of the year everyone had experienced, but they couldn’t do it the way they always had. They decided to limit the amount of volunteers to just the Elgersma family and delivered meals instead of inviting people to their sanctuary. Although they didn’t have to do nearly as many dishes, “we miss the interaction with people,” Peter explained. “We miss that opportunity to see the joy in their eyes as they look at the food that’s before them. That is a precious view.”
The dinner is a blessing to many different people. “It’s not like they’re all seniors or all single parents or all people who are unemployed. To get this group of people in our sanctuary eating a meal together, looking around at each other; we realise we’re all so different, but we’re all the same. No matter what, here’s a church that we’ve been invited into and they’re blessing us.”
The message of this dinner isn’t to make people want to come to church. “There’s no strings attached,” Peter told me. “This is what we do. It opens up those opportunities where somebody asks the question, ‘Why are you doing this?’ It’s because we want to lead by example. To show them what Christ shared with us and to demonstrate who he is to our community.”
This Thanksgiving, the take-out dinner brought a little bit of light to the homes of 150 people. It’s moments like these that give us hope for when we can gather once again, eating and giving thanks together.
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