Volunteers help bring Thanksgiving meals to all in Renton community

It’s the time of year when people are called to their family table to reflect and eat. For those who lack family or friends, there are several opportunities around the city to experience community and share in Thanksgiving festivities.

Two such opportunities are the Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches’ Thanksgiving dinner and St. Anthony’s Catholic Church Thanksgiving Day Mass.

“Nobody has to stay home on Thanksgiving and not have a turkey dinner,” said Sally Cummings, REACH organizer.

Cummings has been involved in the REACH Thanksgiving dinner since the beginning seven years ago and continues to support the project year after year because she says it’s a wonderful organization.

REACH is composed of about 20 Renton churches that work as a unit to help improve conditions in Renton.

“It’s based on the churches, but the fact that they’re churches has nothing to do with it. ...They do a lot of good for Renton,” Cummings said.

The group has worked with Habitat for Humanity, Communities in Schools of Renton and the Salvation Army, to name a few.

The Thanksgiving dinner they sponsor is so well-known that they don’t usually have to ask for volunteers to help out, they just come.

Organizers are asking for apple and pumpkin donations on the day of the event.

Both the dinner and the mass will take place at St. Anthony’s.

St. Anthony’s has been hosting a Thanksgiving Day service at 9 a.m. for about seven or eight years and it’s always a full mass, said Father Gary Zender.

It hasn’t really grown in numbers, but its congregation reflects the colorful surrounding community, he said. The church is home to more than 2,000 families and Thanksgiving Mass will be presented “Misa del Mundo,” meaning “The Mass of the World.” The sermon will be spoken in Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnanese, Polish and English.

It is “a day in which we can give thanks for that diversity,” Zender said.

Consistently in surveys the church has received praise from its congregation and visitors for its diversity.

What is it like to preach to such a diverse congregation? “It’s both challenging and life giving,” said Zender.

Growing up in rural Whatcom County not exposed to much diversity, Zender said today he’s always learning.

“I’m always a foreigner in my own land, in my own church, but in a good way,” he said. Zender speaks Spanish fluently and knows bits and pieces of Vietnamese, Tagalog and German.

Holiday meals

REACH Thanksgiving Dinner

WHAT: The Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches (REACH) will host a Thanksgiving dinner for the community.

WHEN: Nov. 25, 2 p.m.-3 p.m.

WHERE: St. Anthony Parish Hall, 501 S. Fourth St., Renton

COST: Free

Salvation Army Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner

WHAT: The Renton Salvation Army will host a pre-Thanksgiving meal for the community as part of their supper program.

WHEN: Nov. 24, 5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Renton Salvation Army, 720 S. Tobin St., Renton

COST: Free

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