Gather Church hosted a free Christmas day brunch open to anyone who needed a place to go to celebrate the holiday and enjoy food and fellowship with others.
“Just having a place for people to go who don’t have anywhere to go on Christmas, that’s probably, to me, in many ways more important than the food for this celebration, just being together,” said Pastor Cole Meckle of Gather Church when explaining the importance of the brunch. “As important as the food is, like on a regular Thursday night dinner just for the sustenance, this sustenance isn’t calories, it’s belonging.”
There were between 40 and 50 attendees and 25 volunteers including about 10 teenagers who served croissants, muffins and a Spanish egg casserole. The Gather Church Cafe was decorated for Christmas and had many toys under the tree for families and children to take.
“We collect (the toys) over the year and we’ve given them out over the last couple of weeks to families. They come to us from a couple of different organizations that donate to us all year long and the stuff that is best for gifts we set aside,” said Meckle.
Volunteer Brooke Reeder has been coming to dinners at Gather Church Cafe for four years in the past as an attendee.
“This place literally saved my life,” Reeder said. “I was on the streets for four years and everybody here has taken me in and considered me their family and brought me into their house. It’s amazing. This place saves a lot of people’s lives.”
Reeder explained that anyone can come to Gather Church Cafe no matter what they have done in their past. She said that she feels the same acceptance and community at the Christmas brunch that she feels all year round at Gather Church Cafe.
“We are one big family and we come together and helping it what we do and it’s beautiful. No judgment, no nothing. You can come here no matter what walk of life and you’ll be welcomed with open arms,” said Reeder.
Bill Smith, who has been coming to Gather Church cafe for about nine months, has been struggling with heart problems that have rendered him unable to work his job as a mechanic. He said the help he received from Meckle and Gather Church has been invaluable.
“I was praying that when I went into surgery I wouldn’t make it, it was that bad. This place and them (Pastor Meckle and volunteers), they mean a lot,” said Smith.
Smith said he was excited this Christmas because he was going to see his kids later that day.
Mariah Macmeely, 15, and Meredith Scott, 16, were among the teenagers who volunteered their time to help serve food and sort donated clothes. They both agreed that volunteering felt good and they were happy to be using their free time in a positive way.
“My sister and I are Jewish so we don’t celebrate Christmas, so it’s a nice opportunity to help out,” said Macmeely.
Before the food was served, Meckle led a prayer and he spoke about the gracious act of God sending his son to walk the Earth. He hoped the act inspires everyone to be more hopeful.
“We praise you for this day. Inspire us with hope and encourage us. We praise you again that you would send your son whose birth we celebrate today,” said Meckle in prayer.
The canned goods that were donated and collected at the Fort Borst Park light display were donated to Gather Church.
“The bulk of our operating budget comes from our congregation’s giving and then in addition to that we do get donated food,” Meckle said.