Spirit of Thanksgiving in potluck by four upper valley churches

November 23, 2011

PARKDALE - Hospitality comes in the booming voice of Mark Willems.

'May I have your attention, please? There is plenty to eat, and if you are hungry, go back and help yourself!" Willems announced about 90 minutes into the three-hour community thanksgiving meal served Sunday by four upper valley churches, at Parkdale Grange.

People from all over the valley, including many from Hood River and Odell, sat at the long tables over the full-meal-deal you come to expect in late November. And to go with your pie (endless choices, more on that in a moment) there was coffee personally poured at the table by two pastors - Willems, from Parkdale Community Church, and Bobby Beauchamp of Parkdale Baptist Church, along with Tony DeMarco, whose arm was in a sling after a recent long-boarding accident on his way to do drywall work at the Baptist Church.

"We work together to figure out how much we need," said Tina Murphy, wife of Mike Murphy, pastor at Valley Worship Center in Mt. Hood. The fourth church involved is Parkdale Church of the Nazarene.

"We make as much as the year before, and maybe a bit more to make sure everyone has enough," Tina said.

The tradition started five years ago, after the close of Mt. Hood Café, which had offered a community meal. (The only other such feast was the one put on in Hood River by Soul Café, but it closed in 2010.)

"We just like to show the love of Christ," Mike Murphy said. "A lot of people don't have families or anyone they can be with this time of year. This way, they don't have to be alone. It's an outreach to the community."

This year, nearly 200 people came in the door and friends delivered meals to about 20 shut-ins.

"We want to show people that our churches can come together and do something like this for the community," Willems said. "A big part of community is giving back.

"It's the four churches holding a potluck and anyone else who wants to join is welcome," he said.

Each congregation contributes a ham and a turkey, and the talented cooks at each congregation pitch in for the ample side dishes.

"Are there some potatoes somewhere I don't know about or should I make some more?" called out one cook as more diners came in the door, welcomed by Mike Murphy.

DeMarco also greeted people, with a fresh dose of coffee as well as brotherly expressions of his Christian faith.

Later, DeMarco would get help from Dorothy Hendrix, who served, when it was his turn to eat. Like any church potluck, with all that food, dishing up with one arm defies physical laws.

Kitchen helpers took turns bringing out fresh oven pans full of stuffing, turkey meat and vegetables. Among them was Virginia McClain, a Hood River native who grew up in Parkdale, attending high school there. She never misses the church dinner.

Virginia and Jim McClain live in Hood River but their kids were raised in Parkdale.

"This will always be home. We come back here to see everybody," she said.

Jeannie Farwig of Odell can relate. She comes every year for the sense of community.

"I enjoy seeing all the Parkdale people. I lived up here for years, and still go to church here - the little brown church," she said, referring to Parkdale Community on Baseline Drive. "I get to see characters like this guy here," she said, nudging Randy Arnold of Parkdale.

"I just like coming up here and talking with people I don't see a lot," Arnold said. "They do this every year, and they have other events."

Farwig was among many who brought a pie.

"Everyone tried to pawn my pear pie off as apple," Farwig said. "I know it looks like an apple, but it's pear. A lot of people don't realize you can make pies out of pears." She made sure she had a few truly ripe Comice pears.

"They make a really sweet pie," Farwig said.

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