South Beach Church played host to an estimated 500 people Wednesday afternoon for the church’s Day Before Thanksgiving Dinner, serving up food to members of the community who wanted to spend time together with their families or who didn’t have anywhere else to go for Thanksgiving.
Turkey, mashed potatoes, peas, pie and other foods were served by volunteers, some of whom were members of the South Beach Church congregation.
“It’s one of those events that has really developed and grown to be what it is,” said Luke Frechette, the pastor at South Beach Church.
The annual dinner on the day before the holiday stemmed from an effort Frechette has seen since he started working at the church nine years ago, he said. The first iteration of an effort to reach out to members of the greater Newport community resulted in a food box offering to people in need. Church members also tried a dinner on Thanksgiving Day, before moving it to the day before Thanksgiving in subsequent years.
“It was an instant hit, because people have plans on Thursday,” Frechette said. “We discovered a real sweet opportunity to create a space for people to get some food for sure, but more than that, find some love and acceptance and family. Not everyone has family, love and acceptance, so the day before Thanksgiving meal really provides that.”
It’s not just members of the South Beach Church congregation who come to the pre-Thanksgiving dinner; Frechette said he recognized less than half of the people who showed up, an indicator that many in the area heard about the dinner and wanted to come for the food and fellowship.
“That means we’re attracting people that aren’t just our own folks, but people from the community,” Frechette said. “That’s my heart, to impact as many people as possible and create a space for them. There’s a wide variety of people.”
Church volunteers bought at least some of the food served at the dinner — enough to provide an estimated 300 meals by 2 p.m. on Wednesday. About 2,000 pounds of food was bought or donated to prepare meals for dinner.
“Everybody likes to get in the kitchen,” said Joe Frechette, Luke’s father and a member of the congregation. “We love feeding them.”