Christ online

Community Holiday Meals Return for Thanksgiving | Pictures & Videos

Local residents will be happy to know that the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas Community Meals will indeed be returning to Malvern this year!

Community Holiday Meals are two annual meals hosted by area volunteers, kind souls from across Arkansas, and even out-of-state visitors who have lent a hand in the effort year after year.

The tradition began in 2005 when John Allan Funk, a dedicated member of the First United Methodist Church, approached his church’s board of trustees to suggest that they host and serve a free Thanksgiving meal for all community members. who wanted to come and celebrate. Meals are meant to bring people together, in true Christian unity and fellowship.

“I’ve never been without,” Funk shared. “As a family, we would always have these huge gatherings, and I never stepped foot under an empty table.” He wanted other members of the community to have the same experience of love.

After Funk made that initial appeal to the church in 2005, First United agreed to help organize the first community holiday meal at Thanksgiving to bring all walks of life together in joy under the umbrella of Christ. .

After the first Thanksgiving events, they decided to add a second holiday celebration to the mix, as heartbreaking comments from the community highlighted the urgent need for a similar public awareness event at Christmas.

“Around 2008, I think, we started Christmas dinner because we realized the need was there for Christmas too, especially Christmas, because the kids were involved,” Funk said. The Christmas events were big, splashy celebrations, including home-cooked Christmas food, a special appearance from Santa, and gifts for young and old.

“There are so many different needs. People need food, they need companionship, they need someone to take care of them, just to be part of something, and that’s why we started this in 2005,” said Funky. “It’s just a great, great thing.”

The annual holiday meals have fed ever-growing crowds since that first in 2005 and have become one of the church’s largest outreach ministries.

“We have a lot of evangelistic ministries in the church, but these meals have been the most important, in my opinion, and that says a lot about a church that is ready to open its doors. And that’s what a church is supposed to do,” Funk said.

“That’s what we’re supposed to do, and First United Methodist Church has the heart and soul to give back to its community and help in any way we can,” he said. “I am honored and blessed to be part of this congregation.”

Unfortunately, the pandemic caused the organizers to suspend meals after December 2019. Now that the wave of COVID has subsided a bit and protective measures and common sense are in place, the organizers look forward to serving their neighbors and spread. Christian love throughout the community once again.

“COVID canceled our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for two years,” Funk said, adding that he was thrilled to help bring back the beloved event this year and was thrilled to share the wonderful news with the community.

The first upcoming event will again be held at First United Methodist Church at 127 E. Page Ave. Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24. The event will take place at its usual location, but the scope of the project will be a bit smaller than previous affairs.

Up to 1,2000 meals have been distributed between dine-in, pickup, and delivery in recent events, but Funk said they’ll only be doing pickup and delivery meals this year, and they expect to have enough food on hand to sustain themselves. 600 people.

Volunteers will be available to deliver meals to homes for those unable to make it to church themselves that afternoon, and they will contact people who are currently being served through the local Meals on Wheels program. to see if they would also like a vacation. meal delivered that day.

“With the specter of COVID still hanging over us to some extent, and the flu as well, we’ve decided to pick up a bit slow,” Funk said.

It’s easy to see why the savory tradition has taken hold, when you hear what’s on the menu. Funk said the house dressing promises to be one of the best you’ll ever have. The green beans are especially neat with big slabs of cooked bacon, and the mashed potatoes are a highlight every year.

Local businesses and organizations will donate most of the meat and accompaniments to the effort, and Mr. Charles Keeney himself will cook the birds fresh this Thanksgiving morning and serve them with the aforementioned accompaniments, the cranberries and a variety of homemade desserts, including pumpkin and sweet potato pies baked the night before.

Funk cannot stress enough the importance of volunteers in the annual effort.

“I couldn’t do it without the volunteers. I wouldn’t try to do it without the volunteers,” he said. “They like to do it, and I like that they do it.”

A familiar face will be absent and sorely missed at this year’s events. Edna Regan died aged 108 on September 14, just before her 109th birthday in November.

“She used to come there every year and slip me a $5 bill, just to help out,” Funk said. “She showed up at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year we had her.” Regan will be missed but fondly remembered by all who had the pleasure of visiting her at community events in years past.

“She was a longtime member of this church and a huge supporter of everything,” Funk explained.

Funk said Thanksgiving meals will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, and because supplies are limited, volunteers will only be able to deliver a maximum of six meals to any given address. In-person pickup will be limited to four meals per person.

Funk said organizers and volunteers are getting their feet wet again with the Thanksgiving meal, but plan to go all-in for the Christmas event, giving many people in the community something very special to look forward to.

Anyone interested in the Thanksgiving meal delivery option can call 501-332-5289 on Thanksgiving morning to place an order. Those able to travel are encouraged to pick up packaged meals from noon to 2 p.m. to take home and enjoy.