Coming together to serve for the greater good

Written by Nicholas Serrano. Posted in Community News, Featured

Published on November 15, 2011 with No Comments

The days are getting shorter around here, the temperatures are starting to drop and the holidays are rapidly approaching. There are many holiday dinners, activities and parties to choose from, each of them with its own special purpose. Some are hosted by friends and family offering a place to come together for those who are close to them. Others are open to the less fortunate, or perhaps to parishioners of a local church, the employees of a company. One group of citizens, with the help of volunteers and local organizations, is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner of a different variety.

This free holiday dinner is steeped in love and compassion for everyone in the community. By the time the doors are open and guests have begun to eat their meals, leaders and volunteers from various area churches, civic organizations and public organizations will have donated their time, energy and resources toward this event. Staci Pearman, of Crossroads Family Church, and Milissa Evans, of Real Life Community Church, spearheaded the effort. Their goal: to create an event which allows people to reach out and help one another, regardless of specific religious affiliations. Pearman and Evans reached out to every church in Portage, in hopes of bringing them together to function as one body to serve the community. The amount of different groups and congregations which have come together to participate in the effort is heartwarming.

Local organizations who are participating in the event include Real Life Community Church, Crossroads Family Church, First United Methodist Church, Family Bible Church, Grace Church of the Nazarene, Victory Christian Center, First Presbyterian Church, New Hope Church of God, Portage Township Trustee, Vision De Dios Inc. and the YMCA have joined together to create a community of family for this Thanksgiving Holiday.

Furthermore, aside from the wide variety of people making up the composition of volunteers, another thing setting this dinner apart from others this holiday season is the various ways those hosting the event are willing to reach out to community member in need of food in this year.

“What really separates ours from others like it is the composition of the people who put it together. We have a lot of different churches and organizations involved. Our event is open to anyone, regardless of church affiliation,” said Pearman. “Whether you’re alone, traveling, rich, poor. All of our food is home cooked. We don’t do instant mashed potatoes; everything is homemade, with love.”

“We’re expecting between 600 and 650 people and we are also packaging the meals to-go. After the dinner, we will take those and pass them out to the public. Also during the event we have a to-go service, and people can call in and ask for food to be delivered. If people don’t have transportation, we’ll pick them up and take them home as well.”

Additionally, Pearman is planning on dropping off meals to the fire departments and police department workers in Portage as well.

“They are out in the streets protecting and serving us, the least we can do is drop them off a meal while they are working on the holiday,” said Pearman.

Coordinating holiday dinners isn’t new to Pearman and Evans. Both have experience at their respective churches. However this is the first time they’ve come together for such an event. The massive amount of organization can be difficult. Finding a suitable location with enough parking, space for seating and the facilities necessary to prepare all the food was the first step and luckily, Willowcreek Middle School Principal Michelle Stewart donated Willowcreek’s cafeteria for the day of the event. Determining how many people would need to be fed, including deliveries and attendees, was next on the planning party’s agenda, followed by advertising and marketing. Radio stations were contacted, the water department put in on bills, and Pearman created an info line for interested parties to contact.

The results thus far, according to Pearman’s estimates, roughly 600 to 650 people are expected to attend the dinner, not including any delivered meals. The grocery list for the event includes 60 turkeys, 300 pounds of potatoes, three gallons of gravy, 100 pounds of green bean casserole, 50 pounds of stuffing, 270 pounds of sweet potatoes, 650 dinner rolls and, of course, cranberry sauce. With all the work and effort going into the event, it’s important to remember the underlying purpose behind the event, and the holidays in general: reaching out to others and spreading love.

“I have a heart for my own city and I wanted to do to something small to help make an impact in my own city. It’s amazing how many people want to help other people. We’ve created an environment where people can not only be served, but people can reach out and help one another,” said Pearman. “We’re not doing this event for individual glory, it’s not about that. I do this, because I believe in what the bible teaches and loving other people. I don’t know any other way to describe it. I am the person I am because I go to church, read the bible and it opened my eyes. Were supposed to love other people and have compassion for them.”

The event is free and open to all members of the public. The community dinner is from 2 to 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day at Willowcreek Middle School, located at 5962 Central Ave. in Portage. For more information, transportation or meal deliveries call 219-617-6687.


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