When we talk about community and sharing dinner during America’s biggest food holiday, we get excited at Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities, as the pieces come together to provide traditional Thanksgiving meals to upwards of 50,000 people in St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Volunteers show up to help at our events, about 750 in all. Hundreds more from churches and other organizations around the Twin Cities gathered food and gave funds this past summer to help us prepare. We owe our gratitude to so many who work behind the scenes to make this happen.
This year is also a milestone for us. It is our 60th effort to provide a holiday meal to people in our community, a practice that began in 1958. We are not a food shelf. But, we do want people to know that we are here year-round to provide help and hope.
There is order involved in this work. People preregister to receive the family size meals. Each meal has to be prepped and packed. Over two long evenings, volunteers repackage 36,000 pounds of potatoes donated by a Minnesota farmer. That’s 7,200 five-pound bags. There are thousands more cans and boxes to sort, as well.
On Thanksgiving Day, we serve an estimated 450 people a hot meal at our Men’s Campus, and close to 1,000 hot meals go out to lower-income people in apartments around the city.
Each interaction offers an opportunity to make a personal connection. We may learn a few things about the struggles people encounter that make their situation difficult.
All of us need what I like to call “community,” people around us who care, and who will listen. It’s much easier to have those conversations when a person’s food and shelter needs are met.
We feel that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy a good meal on Thanksgiving. Yams, turkey, potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, stuffing and dessert are some of the items people will find in our meal bags, each feeding a family of five.
But, as each of us make our own plans for Thanksgiving, might I suggest that you, too, consider whom you might invite into your home or out to your Thanksgiving event? Is there a friend who lost a loved one and has no family nearby? Have you lost contact with someone who you were once close with and they are struggling? Or, is there someone you just met who is having a hard time?
By showing hospitality, we are truly investing in the lives of others, just as others have done for us. Happy Thanksgiving.
Brian Molohon is a vice president at Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities.
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