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Giving thanks by giving back
Volunteers celebrate Thanksgiving by offering free meals Wednesday
Volunteer hands out Thanksgiving meals
Volunteers from River of Life Foursquare Church in Great Bend hand out free Thanksgiving meals to those in this file photo. The church will share meals again this Wednesday. - photo by Daniel Kiewel

Thanksgiving came a day early in Great Bend for those in need, thanks to volunteers from two local organizations who spent Wednesday afternoon handing out Thanksgiving meals to area residents.

Volunteers from River of Life Foursquare Church in Great Bend set up shop near the Salvation Army store at the corner of 10th and Washington streets shortly after noon Wednesday, offering the meals, while volunteers at the Central Kansas Dream Center served a meal at the organization’s DC Kitchen at the corner of Broadway and Williams.

Between the two organizations, about 250 area residents were expected to be provided a Thanksgiving meal on a sunny, but chilly, Wednesday afternoon. Leaders from both organizations hoped to offer people in need more than just a meal, but heaping helpings of hope and love as well.

River of Life Foursquare Church

Elaine LeRoy, a pastor with River of Life Foursquare Church, said this was their fifth year providing Thanksgiving meals to the community.

Volunteers from the church prepared about 150 meals consisting of turkey, dressing, green beans seasoned with bacon, and mashed potatoes and gravy. LeRoy said it took five full turkeys to complete the meals. She said the goal is to make sure every bit of food prepared is given away. 

She joked, though, they did not include cranberries, because, “not everybody likes cranberries.”

Eight volunteers from the church came out to the 10th and Washington location to help serve the meals. LeRoy said the meal was open to anyone who came.

LeRoy said the Thanksgiving tradition began as the church searched for new and different ways to reach out to the community.

“We decided, ‘let’s just make some turkeys, and make some dinners, and give them away,’” she said. “It was something fun we could do together.”

LeRoy feels the ministry is an important one, because it is a hands-on way to show people that God loves them. It’s especially important, she said, during this time when people are struggling through the difficult times the year has brought.

“We’re going to give a Thanksgiving meal in the name of Jesus, and just love on people,” she said. “We really enjoy doing this.”

Central Kansas Dream Center

Also Wednesday, the Central Kansas Dream Center held their seventh-annual Thanksgiving Feast at the organization’s DC Kitchen from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. 

Dream Center Programs Director Robby Hernandez estimated they served about 100 meals of ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans with bacon and dinner rolls to individuals in need.

But Hernandez said it is not just about providing food.

“A lot of people we serve don’t get a Thanksgiving meal,” Hernandez said. “What we want to provide is a sense of family, and sense of feeling like they’d be welcome somewhere. We want to celebrate by giving thanks for their lives, too.”

Hernandez lauded the generosity of several volunteers and donors who helped make the meal successful. 

Men from the Dream Center’s men’s discipleship program, and other volunteers from the community helped serve the meal. Others donated the food the Dream Center served, as well as the roasters used to cook the food.

“Without (those willing to help), we wouldn’t be able to do this,” Hernandez said.