The Ripley Ministerial Association held their first Community Fellowship Dinner of the holiday season on November 19 with a grand Thanksgiving meal.
The event, held at Centenary United Methodist Church in Ripley, attracted hundreds of locals for a free meal cooked by numerous volunteers and a chance to catch up with old friends. According to volunteer organizer Druann Kendrick, the RMA served a total of 406 meals, which is down from their 2014 total of 486 but still a strong output.
The RMA served turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, stuffing, and an assortment of deserts including pies, cakes, and cookies.
Beebe Chapel Pastor Jim Settles eloquently summed up the evening after finishing his meal.
“It gives an opportunity for folks who may not be getting complete meals this time of year to get one, and it gives the community an opportunity to come together and have fellowship with one another,” Beebe Chapel Pastor Jim Settles said.
The Community Fellowship Dinners began ten years ago, according to Kendrick, in response to a hike in utility prices. It left many of the elderly in the community without enough money for a full meal, especially by the end of the month.
“There was a need, especially with the older people who were on fixed income,” Kendrick said. “That big utility jump really affected their lives.”
The RMA brought volunteers in from across the churches in town, as well as the local Boy Scouts troop. Together, since donations are sparse, the volunteers dipped into their own pockets to cook more than 20 turkeys and many pounds of mashed potatoes, green beans, and deserts.
Volunteers included Betty Campbell, Kendrick, Sandra Moore, Sharon Hausman, Jeanie Bradford, Sonny Bradford, Jane Zachman, Tom Zachman, Rosemary Padgett, Chandra Berry, Gail Boone, Tom Fulton, Barb Chirco, Joe Chirco, Debbie Pfeffer, Gwen Dawley, Carol Harrell, Glenda Huff, Teresa Robinson, Judith Edgington, Mary Beth Kratzer, and Dick Kratzer.
The latter trio spent more than two hours traveling throughout Ripley delivering food to elderly people who weren’t able to attend the dinner. The meal delivery comes at an important time of the year, late in the month.
“We deliver to a lot of senior citizens and a lot of disabled people,” Kratzer said. “If they have any type of (financial) assistance during the month, it’s usually gone by that time.”
The Kratzers delivered more than 100 meals to the elderly this year.
“It’s more than just the food,” Kratzer said. “I had a lady once when I was delivering the food and her TV wasn’t working. I didn’t know anything about the TV but she just wanted me to stay with me until I called (my provider). So I stayed with her, my other sisters went on with the delivery until she got her TV back on.
“It’s a communication between us and the people we’re delivering the meals to. Maybe 30 seconds or a minute, and we know a lot of the people here because we’ve been here our whole lives. We’re delivering to people who have nothing.”
Kratzer said that the fellowship aspect of the event is just as important as the meal.
“It’s a chance for these people to sit and talk to somebody,” Kratzer. “I’m thankful that the Methodist Church has these facilities to do this.”
The Thanksgiving dinner is the first of many this fall and winter. The next Community Fellowship Dinner is set for December 17, with the Ripley Leo and Lions Club running the operation, and the Methodist Church and will be holding free weekly soup and sandwich meals every Thursday in January and February.
“It’s a community event, it’s a great place to meet people,” Moore said. “It’s special.”