Sunday, March 4, 2012

Christian Church's monthly community dinner is less than two years old, but is becoming a tradition

Story and photos by Justin Wright
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway Christian Church played host to a community dinner last Monday night that is becoming a monthly tradition. Since August 2011, the church has served a free meal the last Monday of each month for anyone in the community who wants to attend.

The theme of last month’s dinner was a chili cook-off in which anyone who wanted to participate could mix up their own style of chili and bring it out for the community to try and to be judged by a panel. It generated a crowd of 175, and the atmosphere at the dinner was like a family reunion where no one was a stranger and everyone helped themselves.

The Rev. Heather McColl, pastor of the Disciples of Christ church, said only eight to 10 food entries were from members of the church, while the rest came from other people in the community. There were 28 entries, with church member Phil Burchell’s batch taking home the top prize.

The dish at this month’s dinner was burgoo, prepared by member Rick Caudle. The turnout wasn’t quite as large this time, but the welcoming nature was still there. Barbra Devers, a church member who has been to every one of the dinners, said that “This is a beneficial thing and it gives back to the people of the community and shows that the church cares about the people here in Midway.”

Whether you have been in the community for years or are new to Midway like Bruce Skeeter, a Lexmark engineer who recently moved in from Colorado Springs, the dinner is something that welcomes anyone and encourages people to attend.

“I just heard about the dinner today from one of my neighbors and thought that it sounded interesting so I dropped by to see what it was,” said Skeeter, at left in photo with Brenda Rollins. He said the giving spirit that everyone has shown him in the community was reflected in the dinner. “The atmosphere and levels of kindness that people show in Midway are really reflected in this dinner,” he said. “I think the dinner is a great idea and is a gesture that you don’t see very often.”

Although the community dinner has become a popular event for the people of Midway, the idea did not originate there, but at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Versailles, which had been hosting a similar event and having good turnouts from the community. After deciding to adopt the idea, the leaders of Midway Christian Church had to get their kitchen and dining hall certified by the health department in order to serve food to the public.

Once the kitchen passed inspection and became certified, Midway began this event for the community, which is made possible by the community in more ways than one.

Kroger donates all of the meat that is served at these events and the Woodford County Jail donates vegetables that are grown in its garden. Boy Scout Troop 40, play a key role in this monthly tradition by helping to wash all the dishes, and aspiring chefs from Woodford County High School come in to help prepare the food and receive guidance and learn techniques about culinary arts from the head chef of the event, Ouita Michel of the Holly Hill Inn.

The average turnout for these events is around 100 people, and the church delivers about 10 to 15 meals each time to people who “aren’t shut ins but just really don’t like to get out of the house,” McColl said.

Benita Goldman said, “I only get to come to a few of the dinners because of my health, but whenever I couldn’t make it I always knew that I could rely on the church to bring me a meal if I wanted it.”

McColl said the dinner is a good chance for people to meet people in the community who are new to them. “The older generations seem to be the majority of the crowd that attends these events,” Phillip Burchell said, but sometimes after a meal they feel they owe the church something, so many of them will write checks. The money is put back into the kitchen to buy supplies.

The church’s average cost for a dinner is $80 McColl said, adding that people from the church are free to donate if they feel that they can help. 

McColl said the church hopes to continue the dinners on the last Monday of every month even if it is on a holiday, for the sake of regularity, and so those who worry about meals have this to look forward to.

Those involved in the dinner are already calling it a tradition. “Although this has only been going on a little over a year,” Michel said, “it feels like we’ve been doing it for 10.”

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