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Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts need planning help, organizers said

BEMIDJI -- The people who organize the longstanding, popular community meals at Bemidji churches over the holidays are looking for new blood. The executive committee that plans and organizes come-one-come-all meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas h...

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Volunteers Vickie Meyer, left, and Mitchel Schwindt prepare plates of food in 2016 during the annual Thanksgiving community meal at Calvary Lutheran Church. (Pioneer file photo)

BEMIDJI -- The people who organize the longstanding, popular community meals at Bemidji churches over the holidays are looking for new blood.

The executive committee that plans and organizes come-one-come-all meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas has dwindled from about a dozen members to two, and some churches struggle to find staff to accommodate the small army of volunteers who cook for and serve attendees. That ultimately means more planning and logistical work -- making and hanging promotional posters; advertising; picking up placemats and to-go boxes; and so on -- is spread among fewer people on the committee.

It’s why Kathy Luepke, one of the two women who still plan the meals, is asking for the public’s help planning and organizing them. There are generally plenty of people who volunteer to decorate, clean up afterward, and so on -- the committee needs people to work on the higher-level logistics and leadership.

“It's just time for somebody to take over because if I'm not here, someone's gotta be willing to do it if they want this to continue,” said Luepke, who’s been on the organizing committee for seven years and plans to retire from her job next year. “It's not hard, and it doesn't take a long time, but if you put it all together on one person, that takes a long time.”

The committee organizes one meal at Thanksgiving and another on Christmas, and churches like Calvary Lutheran Church host the meals on a rotating basis. Calvary is set to host this year’s Thanksgiving meal, and planners are still sorting out the spot for the Christmas meal, Luepke said.

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Organizers and volunteers prepare about 1,000 meals per year. About half of those get packed up and delivered to people who can’t make it to the dinners because, say, they’re in a nursing home.

“It's a great, great loss to the community if we have to close this down and not have it anymore,” Luepke said. “It's not (just) for low-income people to eat or anything like that. It's anybody in the community that wants to get together and doesn't want to be at home for Thanksgiving or doesn't want to cook.”

To volunteer for the committee: mkluepke@yahoo.com or 218-556-3364.

Related Topics: FAITH
Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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