by Moira Cullings
BASEHOR — The tables were decorated in a colorful fall theme. And the familiar aroma of turkey and mashed potatoes permeated the room.
Friends and strangers alike gathered to share a homemade Thanksgiving meal.
But it wasn’t a family function they were sitting down to share.
It was the annual outreach Thanksgiving meal of Holy Angels Parish in Basehor, where nursing home residents, the homebound and those without families gathered at the parish hall Nov. 21 to enjoy a home-cooked meal served by volunteers.
“The idea was to invite people who maybe had no family around . . . somebody that needed something for Thanksgiving,” said Holy Angels pastor Father Richard McDonald.
The outreach was created 11 years ago by then-pastor Father Al Rockers, who was inspired by the Gospel of Luke.
“Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,” wrote St. Luke, “blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Lk 14: 13-14).
The parish lives the verse in more ways than one, but its outreach Thanksgiving meal is particularly meaningful to parishioners.
Margaret Baker, a frequent and longtime volunteer at the parish, always enjoys serving guests in this way.
“It’s fulfilling because you get to know people,” she said.
Baker said that people of all faith backgrounds are invited, and many have never been to the church before.
“You really get to know people that are sitting at the tables that you haven’t seen before,” she said.
Parish secretary Joyce Bowlin has witnessed an eagerness in those who attend the meal each year.
“I’ve had times in years past that they’ll call if they haven’t gotten their invitation yet,” said Bowlin. “They’re waiting to come.”
Volunteers prepare the food, which is served buffet-style. At the end of the event, volunteers draw names of those in attendance and give out door prizes.
The event is never short of volunteers.
“Parishioners love to get involved,” said Father McDonald. “There’s never any trouble getting people from the parish to help.”
What draws most of the guests isn’t just the camaraderie, but the home-cooked meal — for many it’s the only one they will enjoy around the holiday.
“The food is just like you’d get at a Thanksgiving meal,” said Father McDonald. “It’s all homemade; it’s delicious.”
“A lot [of the guests] do not have anywhere to go on Thanksgiving,” said volunteer Pat Scheibe.
“It’s a beautiful ministry to see them come in and eat,” she said.
Anna Mary Landauer is just one local who has attended every outreach meal since it first began.
“It’s a day of thanksgiving and appreciation of what we have in this country,” said Landauer. “We don’t appreciate it enough.”
For Landauer, enjoying a meal with friends both old and new is a unique opportunity.
“It’s good for us to get together and have communication and learn how everyone is doing,” she said. “I appreciate every bit of it.”
Father McDonald is overwhelmed by the generosity of parish volunteers and the spirit of their gracious guests.
“It brings out the best community atmosphere,” said Father McDonald. “It’s such a wonderful Christian outreach.
“It’s one of the best facets of our parish.”