Kirkland Community Comes 'Together for Thanksgiving'

"Does it cost money?" asked a single mother.

The family photos were free — along with everything else on the Sunday before Thanksgiving at Kirkland Church. On this day each year, Kirkland Church opens its doors for a celebration known as Together for Thanksgiving.

Guests from the community and church arrive at 4 p.m. to find a small banquet hall decorated and ready to enjoy. While appetizers and beverages are enjoyed, children are encouraged to partake in the crafts, face painting, cookie decorating and activities prepared for them. A photographer takes photos of families and friends who would like to have this day remembered.

A hot dinner provided by church members is served followed by games and activities until it is time to leave. Every year church members create about 50 food baskets to hand out with small gifts like toiletries and literature. Leftover banquet food is boxed up and given to guests to take home. They also receive blankets, clothes and even stuffed animals for the children.

Karen has come to this dinner almost every year and usually brings five or six friends with her. "I just want you to know how much this all means to me. I have so much fun here — this is better than any Christmas I have ever had," says Karen, as tears well up in her eyes. The church family prayed with Karen, as she is lonely, renting a room, has no family and cannot find a job.

Chan is a single mother and came with her sister and son. She has no job, and her countenance showed such respect and gratitude for what the Kirkland members are doing for her family. A member encouraged her to go and get a family photo — "Does it cost money?" When she was told it would be free, her head lifted and she smiled.

Crissy and Sarah are single mothers and together are taking care of nine children, some adopted and some fostered. They came last year and said that the kids talked so much about the fun they had that they had to come again this year. The children squealed with delight over each stuffed toy, activity and prize.

Simon started coming to church a few months ago discouraged that he did not speak English well and slept in his tiny car or shelters, and he was afraid to ask for help. Simon was overwhelmed with the food, bags and blanket that he received.

Together for Thanksgiving is essentially this: bringing church and community together to share God's blessings and using them to bless others.

January 20, 2014 / Washington Conference