Christmas is a time for giving.
But for one McPherson family, the spirit of the season isn’t about giving gifts. It’s about fostering community and a sense of belonging.
For about 15 years, the family of Verla Thomason has traded time in their own homes to organize McPherson’s annual Community Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner.
Each year, various members of the family will coordinate volunteers, count inventory, prepare the food and welcome individuals and families to what may be the attendees’ only holiday celebration.
Along with other volunteers, the family prepared food for over 600 people. On the menu was ham, salad, potatoes, beans, dessert and other food, all of which was prepared or stored in mass quantity at the McPherson Senior Center.
“This is a way we could work together and give back to the community what they’ve given to us,” Thomason said, secretary of Community Thanksgiving, Inc., event organizing entity. “It’s very rewarding because you feel like you have reached out to those needed somewhere to go for Christmas.”
Although they might not have what some may consider a traditional Christmas gathering, the preparation has been come traditional for four generations of the family.
Avery McCormick, Thomason’s great-grandson, has been involved since he was in elementary school. His job has always been to cut fruit.“It’s not what you’re doing, its more the spirit of everything else....being able to give back what they’ve given us,” he said. “We like to help other people.”
The people that attend all have their own reasons for attending.
“It’s all walks of life,” Kimba McCormick, Thomason’s daughter said, whose favorite jobs is to greet individuals at the door. “It doesn’t matter if you’re financially struggling or if you have money. It helps give people someone to visit with on the holidays.”
Mike McCormick, in-law to Thomason, is president of the Community Thanksgiving, Inc. He said he enjoys organizing these events with his family.
“It’s kind of fun to get them all together,” he said. “We’re a close knit family and try to do lots of things together.”
And in some ways, the McPherson community has become an extension of their own family.
“We know what the giving thing is,” he said. “It is better to give than receive. And we like doing it.”