A Reimagined Thanksgiving Meal in Wilsonville

Volunteers work at Wilsonville UMC to prepare more than 300 turkey dinners for the community for Thanksgiving, instead of hosting an in-person dinner. (Photo by Hannah Toth)
by Sally Blanchard

Wilsonville United Methodist Church is well-known in the community for serving their annual Thanksgiving dinner to all-comers. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the church couldn’t do it. But the congregation knew there was still a need, and they reimagined a way forward.

An idea came from members of the congregation to provide this year’s Thanksgiving meal through food boxes instead, but they had no idea how many would request them.

First members reached out to the local school district that has been  distributing sack lunches in their parking lot. The district requested 200 boxes for their families. Flyers were put up at the nearby senior residence and then a post on the church’s Facebook page advertised the free boxes. Soon they had requests for more than 300 boxes.

“This was much more than we expected,” said Rev. Dylan Hyun.

Thanksgiving dinners prepared for dispersing in Willsonville. (Photo by Hannah Toth)

He wondered how his smaller congregation would handle the cost and preparation of that many.

His question “how are we going to do this?” was met with action. Some members reached out to local grocery stores for discounts and generous donations came in. The word got out about the donations and the congregation grew excited by the possibilities and gave generous gifts of all sizes. Hyun said the momentum grew and the mood in the church was very hopeful and happy.

Working in small groups no larger than six and following safety protocols under the Greater Northwest Area’s “Reimagining Life Together” guidelines, volunteers met at the church to assemble the boxes, each with a pre-cooked turkey, pumpkin pie and traditional side dishes.

Last Saturday the church gave away more than 300 boxes in their parking lot and planned to deliver to those unable to pick up.

“This project provided hope. The church is still there,” Hyun said. “People who call themselves faithful let the people know the church building is closed but we are still the church.”

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