Thanksgiving community dinners feed Oklahomans spiritually, physically

By Eliana Tedrow
The Sooner Catholic

“O God, grant that whatever good things I have, I may share generously with those who have not, and whatever good things I do not have, I may request humbly from those who do.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

During this time of year, parishes around the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City are preparing to offer Thanksgiving dinners to embrace their communities and offer a warm meal and fellowship.

“Not all needs are obvious when you look at a person,” Biruta Harris said. “There can be someone who feels very alone and down. You don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life. People wondering how they can pay the electric bill can be dressed beautifully.”

Harris, a parishioner of Saint John the Baptist in Edmond, is a 15-year veteran on the Edmond Community Thanksgiving Dinner planning committee, an ecumenical non-profit comprised of Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, nondenominational and others. Together, they seek the common goal of organizing, preparing, and serving one of the state’s largest community dinners.

Rotating annually, Saint John the Baptist is the host church for this year’s free dinner.

Founded in 1981 by a Presbyterian family, the Edmond Community Thanksgiving Dinner’s mission is to “Extend God’s love to all His children by providing a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner to those in need of nourishment for body and soul, and to be in fellowship with other Christians.”

By the end of Thanksgiving Day, this interdenominational group will have prepared, cooked and served more than 3,500 dinners to a mix of Oklahomans around the Edmond area, including having delivered 400 dinners to shut-ins.

Served in the Grand Ball Room on the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma, churches and volunteers from an array of denominations will come together for one, unified mission: To extend God’s love to all people, regardless of creed, income, age or need. Aided by nearly 700 volunteers, the Edmond Community Thanksgiving Dinner has received an enormous response since its inception 36 years ago.

“This meal is not for people who just can’t afford it,” Harris said. “It’s for the students who can’t go home, for people who just want the fellowship, and even for the volunteers who make it a tradition to sit down and eat with their families.”

According to Harris, emotional needs are not only for diners, but also for volunteers.

“Volunteers need to give,” she said. “They might be in despair, but they get out of themselves in whatever way they can.”

“(The dinner) encourages people to be more charitable, more giving. It’s what I call ‘practical Christianity.’ Instead of talking about kindness and helping others – they do it!”

Eliana Tedrow is a freelance writer for the Sooner Catholic.


Edmond Community Dinner
Thursday, Nov. 23
11 3 p.m.
Nigh University Center
100 N. University Dr.