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Helping those in need

Local church offers community Thanksgiving dinner by Marc Hayot | November 24, 2021 at 5:30 a.m.
Marc Hayot/Herald-Leader First Church Siloam Springs Methodist Congregation Youth Pastor Manny Achondo (left) poses with fellow volunteers Karl Mounger, Olivia McGarver, and David Graves and "Lulu" at the coffee counter leading to the kitchen. Graves coordinates the church's annual Community Thanksgiving dinner.The dinner has been an ongoing ministry since 2005, according to Graves.


People who do not have access to a Thanksgiving dinner may come to First Church Siloam Springs for its annual community dinner from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday in the fellowship hall.

First Church, formerly known as First United Methodist Church, has hosted the dinner since 2003, according to David Graves, the coordinator for the dinner.

Graves said the dinner is set up restaurant-style so people can come in and relax. Volunteers will offer attendees coffee or tea and take their order for ham or turkey, said Graves.

"I want people to come in and have good food and fellowship," Graves said.

First Church is also offering delivery options starting at 11 a.m. Delivery options began last year during the coronavirus pandemic, Graves said.

He estimated the church delivered 500 meals last year. Graves is planning for that many people this year between those who attend and others who ask for their meals to be delivered.

Anyone who would prefer to have their meal delivered may call the church office before noon on Thanksgiving, Graves said. With a plan to be there at 6 a.m. to help set up, Graves said people will have the opportunity to reach volunteers early.

Volunteers are not a problem for Graves as they show up when asked, he said. There were several years where Graves had to turn away help because he had a full staff, he said.

"We run 20 to 25 people throughout the day when they can afford the time," Graves said.

The idea for the dinner came from Graves, who approached Michael Sutton, the pastor in 2003, to ask about the church starting to serve Thanksgiving dinner to those in need. Sutton not only gave Graves his blessing, but put him in charge of the event.

Graves has hosted the event every year except for 2018 when health issues prevented him from participating, he said.

Volunteer Karl Mounger has been helping with the dinner since the church started hosting it. Mounger, who has been involved in different roles within city government, said he knows how people struggle and their food situation.

Mounger started volunteering by opening all the cans of green beans, but has moved up to slicing turkey and ham. Mounger said he will continue to volunteer for the dinner as long as he is able.

"I think we need to put in as much as we can to help other people," Mounger said. "They don't realize how hard up a lot of people are in Siloam. This is something that the church needs to be doing helping others."

With no one at home Mounger is also free to not only volunteer but also take the time to enjoy the hot meal.

As one of the newer volunteers, Olivia McCarver volunteers by opening cans, putting foil on different foods and placing items in the oven and taking them out.

McGarver volunteers with her husband Ryan McCarver at the dinner. Olivia McCarver said she they both enjoy taking the time to help others during the holiday season.

"It's just a great way to be involved in the community and to spend time volunteering and working with our church family," Olivia McCarver said.

Since the couple has both of their families in Siloam Springs, she usually volunteers in the morning, she said.

Youth Pastor Manny Anchondo has been volunteering for the dinner since 2013, he said. Like McGarver, Anchondo usually volunteers in the morning from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m., he said.

Anchondo also brings his kids to help so they can understand the importance of helping those who are less fortunate.

"I work with kids who face food insecurities," Anchondo said. "It's a way to help."


Print Headline: Helping those in need

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