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River of Life shares Thanksgiving meals with those in need
Boxing Thanksgiving meals
Volunteers Richard Elson, John Stoskopf and Elaine LeRoy box Thanksgiving meals at River of Life Foursquare Church Wednesday morning. The meals were handed out in the parking lot next to the Salvation Army for those in need. - photo by Daniel Kiewel

There was more than just food in the boxes handed out by volunteers from River of Life Church outside the Salvation Army in Great Bend Wednesday. 

Along with traditional Thanksgiving fixings, volunteered shared heaping helpings of love and hope to those that needed it most. Community members were already lined up at 11 a.m. when a bus from the church pulled up, packed with meals. According to volunteer Keith Ravenstein, they used to begin handing out meals at noon, but with high demand, the church decided to begin earlier this year.

This is the fifth year the church has passed out Thanksgiving meals to those in need in the community. The meals consisted traditional holiday staples including turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and green beans. The church hoped to give out close to 200 meals this year.

The five full turkeys, donated by members of the church, went in the oven Tuesday night in preparation for Wednesday’s meal.

To prepare the other components of the meal, volunteers arrived at the church by 6 a.m. Wednesday in order to be able to have meals ready to serve by 11 a.m. Two volunteers from the church passed out meals, while other members stayed at the church continuing to pack and deliver meals to the site. 

All food the church served, which also included several large pans of mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing and gravy, was either donated by parishioners or purchased by the church.

In the past the church had given out an average of around 150 meals, but with other outreach ministries canceled this year due to COVID-19 concerns, co-pastor Elaine LeRoy said this was a chance to put more focus into an outreach that has become a niche for the church and its parishioners.

“A lot of churches do a lot of neat things in the community,” LeRoy said. “This seems to be something that fits us, and that we can all do.”

It’s more than just the food that makes the annual tradition worthwhile, though, Ravenstein said. “It gives people hope.”

The reasons people need meals at Thanksgiving are many and varied, Ravenstein said, and not always financial. Families unable to get out and celebrate the holidays for COVID-19 and other reasons were also able to receive meals when they might not otherwise be able to celebrate Thanksgiving.

“It’s just something we (like to) do for the community, and we’re not expecting anything back,” Ravenstein said.

LeRoy said it’s a great way to be a blessing to people in the community. 

“We want to reach those who are really hurting,” LeRoy said. “It’s all about just giving.”

Community feedback, she said, has been extremely positive. “So many people have told us, because of this they get to have a Thanksgiving dinner.”

Handing out meals
Volunteer Shilo Cruz from River of Life Foursquare Church passes out Thanksgiving meals to those in need next to the Salvation Army in Great Bend Wednesday morning. - photo by Daniel Kiewel