Volunteers give back at Coon Rapids church on Thanksgiving Day

More than 200 volunteers gave back to the community at Faith Lutheran Church, Coon Rapids, Thanksgiving Day Nov. 28.

Ryan Wilaby dishes up potatoes.

Ryan Wilaby dishes up potatoes.

They organized and worked at the annual free community dinner, which has been hosted by the church on Thanksgiving Day for more than 30 years.

The volunteers were mostly from the church congregation, according to Joan Blesi, one of three coordinators of the dinner with Jayne Brinkman and Kathy DeGrote.

“But we do have some members of the community that volunteer, too,” Blesi said.

And there were a number of youth members of the church that were among the volunteers.

Between 250 and 300 people were served a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, plus dessert and beverages, in two sittings over two hours, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Almost all made reservations. “But we do take walk-ins,” Blesi said.

In addition, meals prepared in the church kitchen were delivered to people in their homes by volunteer drivers.

And volunteer drivers were also on hand in case people needed a ride to the church for the dinner and then transportation home afterwards, Blesi said.

As well as the free meal, 85 bags of groceries were given to people who signed up to receive them, according to Blesi.

Members of the congregation donated the food items in the grocery bags.

The church began collecting donations Oct. 27 with food items designated according to the last name of the congregation member.

For example, according to the church bulletin, if the last name began with the letter E, that person was to bring peanut butter.

And hats, scarves and mittens made by church members were laid out on tables in the church foyer for people to take home with them, Blesi said.

Those were supplemented by items left over from the church’s Sharefest craft fair and bazaar Nov. 2, she said.

Costco donated baked goods, including more than 200 pumpkin pies.

“That was very welcome,” Blesi said. “We were able to send pies home with people.”

In addition, McDonalds on Foley Boulevard donated orange drink and 100 pounds of turkey in trays was provided by Jensen’s Foods in Northdale Shopping Center at cost, she said.

Outside the church, visitors were able to take home clothing from the Friend2Friend mobile ministry trailer, which had racks of free clothing that had been donated to the organization for people in need.

According to Kristi Rueckert, volunteer with Friend2Friend, the mobile ministry was originally started by a church in Anoka County, but has since become a nonprofit organization after deciding to expand its scope by taking its trailer full of clothing to Twin Cities area locations rather than just the county.

Each month the mobile ministry trailer makes scheduled visits to area churches and neighborhoods to distribute clothing, shoes, toys and personal care items to those in need, Rueckert said.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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