Connecting with heart of community over Thanksgiving dinner - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Connecting with heart of community over Thanksgiving dinner

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Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 3:38 pm | Updated: 9:38 am, Sun Nov 25, 2012.

Tom Cooper, the missions director of Broadway Christian Church in Mesa, said he knows it’s his job to help connect the community to Jesus Christ and help fulfill its needs.

And sometimes, ways of connecting include reaching the community’s heart through its stomach.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Broadway Christian Church at 7335 E. Broadway, will continue a tradition it began about five years ago of providing a free traditional Thanksgiving meal to people seeking a place to eat for the holiday who may not have a place to go otherwise.

There are 500 seats available, up from providing 325 dinners last year, Cooper said.

The community dinner comes amid numerous food banks and organizations throughout the Valley hosting food drives and seeking turkey donations, a need of which also increased from a year ago.

“We don’t want anyone eating alone or eating in front of the TV,” Cooper said. “They should come here and join us. It’s for everybody we have room for. There’s a lot of families who come with their children. There’s a lot of people hurting out there. But, we don’t care if someone is a millionaire. If they don’t have someone to eat with, they can join us too. It will be a happy place to come to.”

Cooper said that a few years ago, the church provided “Thanksgiving bags” consisting of carry-out meals for residents, but started looking for a way to bring members of the community together in one place.

“It’s my job to find ways to connect the community and get them acquainted with the love of Jesus Christ,” Cooper added. “It’s important that the community become acquainted with the love of Christ, and we believe that this is one way of showing people in the community that we care about them.”

Cooper was quick to say that the church has plenty of volunteers to serve the dinners, and they have been filling all the seats each year the event has been held.

Not far away, Paz de Cristo at 424 W. Broadway, Mesa, also will be hosting a community dinner on Thanksgiving.

While many people who do not have family or friends living in the area and will seek fellowship at a community dinner, local food banks also are seeing an increased need for turkeys and food.

“We need to keep things rolling,” said Melissa Forrester, community outreach coordinator for the United Food Bank of the East Valley. “Every year, we’ve been struggling to get more turkeys, and we’re continuing to ask businesses and churches to hold food drives. People who drive up with turkeys don’t even have to get out of their cars.”

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