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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

Serving up a Thanksgiving feast

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Janette Bennett, a volunteer for the La Cygne Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Saturday, Nov. 18, delivers a couple of turkey dinners to diners at the La Cygne Christian Church. A small army of volunteers made dinners for 500 people at the annual event.

Story and photos by Roger Sims,

Last Friday was a weirdly wonderful day at Sam’s Club in Overland Park. In the huge box store where shoppers are usually too busy or focused for pleasantries, smiles and friendly conversation and being considerate was somehow the order of the day.

Rosemary Long was pushing a cart filled with food – 21 bags of dinner rolls, and stacks of gallon-size canned green beans. Making polite conversation, a woman asked Long why she had the cart full of just a few items.

Volunteers on the serving line include, from left, Wendi Andres, Vicky Fleming, Anna Hill, Rosemary Long, and Becky Andres.

Long, who for the second year has organized the La Cygne Community Thanksgiving Dinner, explained to the woman that she and a small army of volunteers were planning to fix a turkey dinner for about 500 people.

She said how the city, businesses and individuals chipped in with both time and money to feed anyone who wanted to eat from the communities of Linn Valley and La Cygne.

“That is such an amazing thing,” the woman said. “That’s why I’m paying for your cart.”

She then insisted on paying for Long’s cart. All $416 worth.

Nine-year-old Aria with the Linn Valley Community Church reads a passage as her mother, Nikki Hale, right, looks on.

Long protested, but the woman, who only gave her first name, Diane, insisted on contributing for the meal that would be served at a town she knew nothing about, let alone where it was located.

So on Saturday, residents from the La Cygne and Linn Valley areas gathered at the La Cygne Christian Church to enjoy the meal, partially paid for by a stranger, that has become a Thanksgiving tradition for about a quarter of a century. For those who couldn’t attend in person, volunteers delivered the meals to homes - about 60 in all.

Volunteers from the church cooked the turkey in the kitchen there. The potatoes were parceled out to volunteers from the other churches – including the Linn Valley Community Church, Calvary Baptist Church, La Cygne United Methodist Church, and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

Diners from the La Cygne and Linn Valley communities enjoy conversation along with their turkey dinners.

The churches were given about 10 minutes each half-hour to talk – or sing – to the diners. Brennan Cummings, pastor of the Methodist church began at 11 a.m. with a blessing, and the Linn Valley church choir performed at noon.

Many of the diners sang along to the well-known hymn “Standing on the Promises of God,” but were content to just listen to the choir’s less familiar second hymn.

Brennan Cummings, pastor of the La Cygne United Methodist Church, greets diners as they enter the La Cygne Christian Church.

In inviting the La Cygne-area churches to participate every half hour, they were warned that the meal was available to everyone regardless of faith and that attempts to deliver a sermon would likely be ignored, said Chris Ferguson, pastor of the La Cygne Christian Church.

The money saved by the donation of a stranger, along with the donations received during the meal on Saturday in a large glass container on the serving table, will go towards next year’s community meal or helping with the La Cygne food pantry.

With stacks of to-go meals lined up on the counter of the kitchen at the La Cygne Christian Church, pastor Chris Ferguson, right, discusses details of the dinner with volunteer Chelle Young.

The Linn Valley Community Church choir, under the direction of Robin Zumbrannen, center, performs for diners.

Marcel Richardson seasons a large tray of green bean casserole for the dinners.

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