Thanksgiving dinner serves record 127 with food, community spirit

Jaidyn Hanks, 6, of Platte City, Mo., enjoys a slice of pumpkin pie. Enlarge photo

November 30, 2011

Scenes from Bonner's 18th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner

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Larry Atchison of Bonner Springs talks about Thursday's event at First Christian Church, which was the first Community Thanksgiving Dinner he and his family had attended. Enlarge video

Jordan DeTar Newbert, 19, has attended every single Community Thanksgiving Dinner — though she didn’t originally have much of a choice in the matter, as she was only 1 year old when the event made its debut 18 years ago in Bonner Springs.

Now, however, volunteering at the event has become as much of a tradition for her as turkey on Thanksgiving.

“Just ’cause I’ve done it so much that I kind of know what needs to be done,” Jordan said.

Jordan’s mother, LeAnne Detar Newbert, helped start the event 18 years ago and has been its main organizer ever since. She has brought her young daughter with her every year, but Jordan DeTar Newbert said she began taking a more active role in the dinner as a volunteer when she was about 5 or 6. “So if my mom’s busy, I can kind of head it up a little bit. She’s always saying I’m going to take it over someday.”

Last week’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner at First Christian Church served a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, including turkey and all the trimmings, to a record number of about 127 people, LeAnne Detar Newbert said. Thirteen meals were taken to go; 30 meals were distributed to Nettleton Manor and Vaughn Dale, both of which offer housing for seniors and residents with disabilities; and 73 community members, including 14 volunteers, enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner in the church’s dining room.

LeAnne DeTar Newbert said Thanksgiving afternoon the sense of community in the room was palpable.

“(There’s) a strong sense of community … they’re coming to eat and they’re also coming to help; coming to contribute,” she said, noting that several people during the dinner had offered to help clear tables when they were finished eating or do other necessary tasks.

Several community members also had taken the initiative to sit next to someone who was eating by themselves, she said. “So when I’m talking about community, I’ve seen some inclusiveness that is very warming … there’s a wonderful spirit here today.”

And it wasn’t just a free meal that had people in such good spirits. Attendees, several of whom showed because they were unable to get out of town to visit family members, expressed unabashed gratefulness that they had somewhere to go and people to be with on a family-themed holiday that can be difficult to tackle alone.

“I was delighted for the invitation,” said Leslie Davis of Bonner Springs, who was told about the dinner while riding the Tiblow Transit. “The food was good and the desserts were good. Everything was good.”

Davis said her family was all from Texas. She said she came to the dinner because, “I was lonely.” Her first-time experience was so positive, however, she said she’d definitely be back next year — maybe even to help cook. In this economy, she said she knows how hard it can be, and a Thanksgiving offering such as the one shared by First Christian Church every year is a blessing.

“It’s a wonderful service,” she said. “There’s a lot of hungry people in the world and I’m sure that this worked out for a lot of people. Never know when your next meal’s going to come from, so it helped a lot of people.”

It’s that feeling of helping somebody else that keeps Jordan DeTar Newbert, who is now a sophomore at Kansas State University, coming back to volunteer each year.

“I just know that there’s a lot of poor people in this community and a lot of shut-ins that wouldn’t have Thanksgiving otherwise,” Jordan said. “And so it really makes a difference for the ministry of our church that every year they know that, even if their family can’t be there or they can’t get out, they will have a Thanksgiving dinner … I know if I was in that situation, I would want the same. So we’re just really trying to like spread God’s love to those that would otherwise not be able to have Thanksgiving and let them know that we’re still thinking about them.”

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