By Lauren Sieh
Staff reporter

Grace United Methodist Church has been providing a community dinner since March 9, 2009. The congregation will be celebrating their tenth anniversary of the dinner next week. The idea for a community dinner was inspired through mission trips to Haiti after the hurricanes plagued the country in 2008.

Shirley Booe started the community dinners at GUMC nine years ago and has been associated with the church since 1986. She is the community dinner’s coordinator and loves to interact with everyone who attends the dinner.

Booe said, “Prior to starting it [the community dinner], the women group had a dinner. This woman talked and showed us pictures of Haiti. She was talking about the poverty and about she felt there was not anything she could do. It was as if they would go from on disaster to another one. They just could not pull themselves up by the bootstraps and go beyond the poverty. It was just terrible that all the awful things that poverty does to people and that was part of the lesson.” Booe continues, “And then us as a group, after we got done with that lesson, we ate this three course meal with elaborate chocolates. I just said to myself, ‘What is a matter with this picture?’ I thought well for Pete sakes, I am not going to Haiti but I am sure there is people in Winfield that can appreciate a free meal or appreciate being noticed, loved and cared for.”

The GUMC is one of two churches in Winfield that continues to provide a dinner for the community. The congregation obtains the food for the community dinners in many ways. If the Winfield Food Pantry gets items in bulk, they are sent over for the dinner. They also receive donations and shop for the food themselves.

Three groups help serve at the dinners. One group consists of a schoolteacher who is the leader of the group and their group takes one Thursday. Grandview United Methodist Church has a group that comes and serves on Thursday. The last group, run by Booe, consists of all women and they come in and help on Thursday’s as well.

“We each have our own group. I have a group that automatically shows up. I do not call anybody. That is one of the things I do not do unless I am desperate. The reason I do not call is that if I call you, you came because I asked you to. I want you to come because in your heart you feel like this is something you want to do. Not something, I am asking you to do,” said Booe.

On an average night, the groups give out around 50 to 70 servings. The estimated servings during holidays increases to 125. Since the start of the year, however, th number has been reduced to about 45 servings. This is likely to be due to the recent winter weather.

Karol Kenzy and Mariel King is a part of the group from Grandview United Methodist Church. They help serve at the dinner once a month.

King said, “When the weather is permitting, we usually serve around 70-80 people.”

When asked about what she likes about serving at the dinner’s, Kenzy said, “The people that come to the dinners are people that have come pretty consistently. People get to know each other and it is kind of like a little community. I mean, you know everybody and you know their kids.”

The next community dinner will be held on March 7 from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. at Grace United Methodist Church. 

Lauren Sieh is a sophomore majoring in communication. You may email her at lauren.sieh@sckans.edu.