by Nicole Brodzik
On Dec. 14, white linens will be laid on tables, candles will be lit, live music will be played and wait staff will stand ready to serve at Mound Evangelical Free Church.
The annual Christmas compassion meal, held by Mound Evangelical Free Church and Bethel United Methodist Church, has been a hit during it’s three-year run. The dinner helps those in need of a meal or a little company, while focusing on the churches missions of giving back.
“We hold a dinner every Wednesday, but at this time of the year we wanted to do something special,” Gary Pettis, organizer and member of Mound Evangelical Free Church, said. “Most of these folks don’t get to go out and have a nice sit down meal at a restaurant. We wanted to bring them that.”
Pettis and a small army of church goers from both congregations bring in chairs from the sanctuary, grab as many tables as they can, set up linen table clothes, glasses, silverware and light candles at each table to set the mood. Volunteers from the churches serve as waiters and waitresses for usually around 100 people, according to Pettis. In the past, they’ve served pork loin stuffed with plums and apricots or New York Strip Steaks to enhance that holiday feeling.
“We always say we won’t serve anything that we wouldn’t feed to our families,” Pettis said.
The Christmas meal started out three years ago as a spin off of the weekly Dinner is Served compassion dinner.
Mound Free Evangelical, with the help of Pettis and co-organizer Jenni Gilbertson, had been hosting twice-monthly Wednesday night dinners for about five years when a flood in 2012 prevented the church from holding them. Bethel United Methodist Church members Joleen Carlson and Dwight Davis reached out to Pettis and Gilbertson about teaming up. Bethel United would host the meals while Mound Free Evangelical was getting fixed up and they’d help prepare two extra meals a month.
Since then, the two churches have been working together and have moved the meals back to Mound Evangelical Free Church since its remodel. The meals are funded by church funds and donations from church members and are all prepared by members of the congregations.
“We try to feed as many people as possible,” Pettis said. “If we run out of food, we run to Jubilee Foods and buy something.”
He also emphasized that while feeding the hungry is an important part of the dinners, there’s more to compassion care than just giving out a free meal.
“It’s meant to be a compassion outreach,” Pettis said. “We have people come who could afford to eat somewhere else, but for some, compassion means a need for company, especially at this time of the year.”
Pettis said they ask nothing in return for the meal and encourage anyone in need of a meal or just someone to talk to, come out on the 14th. He asked that anyone planning to come RSVP either by email ([email protected]), phone message (952-472-2779) or by signing up at Mound Free Evangelical Church.