First Christian Church celebrates 25 years of Thanksgiving meals

Marlys Barker, Nevada Journal Editor
The number of people attending the Thanksgiving meal at First Christian Church on Thanksgiving Day has grown since it began 25 years ago in Nevada. Last year's meal brought in 124 people.

For 25 years, the members of First Christian Church in Nevada have been serving a Thanksgiving meal that is open to everyone in the community.

This year will be no different.

Laural Beaty, a church member who helps coordinate the meal by being sure there is plenty of help and donations of food, said the tradition is special to the church and to the community. And the person who started the meal 25 years ago in Nevada is special to Beaty as well.

Her father, Fred Danforth, a former pastor at First Christian, brought the meal tradition to Nevada in the early 1990s. “The tradition actually started 43 years ago in Denver, Colo., when my dad saw a need at the church he was pastoring in a low-income area just off South Broadway,” Beaty said. So, through his church, he started a Thanksgiving meal for the people of that area in 1973 and took the meal with him to other places where he served, including Grand Junction, Colo., before he came to Nevada.

“One of the things dad always thought was important was the feeling of family,” Beaty said, “so we try to make everyone feel at home (through the church Thanksgiving meal).”

Starting with a group of about 25-30 in the first year the meal was served, the turnout has grown through the years. “Last year we served 124 (people),” Beaty said, and she’s proud to report they’ve never had to turn anyone away.

As is fitting for holidays, there are some heartwarming stories that can be told about this annual Nevada Thanksgiving meal. Beaty recalls a year that was very snowy. “We were getting ready to clean up, and some people stopped because they saw cars in the parking lot. They had been traveling and hadn’t been able to find anything open to get something to eat. We set them down and had just enough food to feed them all… We weren’t sure there was going to be enough food, but (just like in the Bible) like the fishes and loaves, there was plenty.”

The tradition has included a number of families over the years. “Many of the people we see every year bring their families to our table, so they don’t have to do all the work and they can just enjoy a good meal and spend time together,” Beaty said, noting there is always plenty of time for visiting before, during and after the meal.

Those who want to help in the kitchen are invited to do so. There are always enough volunteers to get the cooking done, serve the meal and clean up afterward.

Beaty said she has always been one of the people to help prepare the turkeys and ham. “We have been fortunate to have 90 to 95 percent of all the food we serve donated by members of the community and our congregation,” she said. Many of those who come bring along a side dish, dessert or salad to share.

“Eddie Garcia, owner of Snack Time Family Restaurant, has donated the mashed potatoes and gravy and helped in the kitchen for many years,” Beaty said. “A few years ago, his family surprised him by showing up to help serve and clean up. It has become a family tradition for them now, too.”

The meal is to be shared with all those who want to enjoy it. Those who wish can make a free-will donation for the meal, but it’s not necessary. The group at the church always makes deliveries to shut-ins, to convenience store workers in the community and to anyone who calls and requests it. “All anyone needs to do is call the church, 382-4866, and request one be delivered,” Beaty said.

The Thanksgiving meal will be served from noon to 1:30 p.m. The church appreciates if people call to let them know they are coming, but it’s also fine if people come that day, even if they didn’t call ahead.

For Beaty, being involved in the annual event is something she looks forward to each year. “Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks for our bounty and sharing what we have with others. I love the feeling of community that we all share. Christ teaches us to love our neighbors and calls us all to the table,” she said. “Helping to provide this time of sharing is one of my ways of following the teachings of Christ.”