Preparing the table for Thanksgiving Dinner

Preparing the table

Volunteers put in days of work getting ready for the annual St. Ferdinand Thanksgiving Dinner, which provides a free meal to the community 

By Charlotte Beard

For 20 years, a group of St. Louis North County churches have worked to alleviate some of the challenges of eating alone on Thanksgiving Day or not having the funds to prepare a festive dinner. 

Nov. 28 they will resume their annual St. Ferdinand Thanksgiving Dinner (SFTD) at St. Ferdinand Catholic Church. The church is located at 1765 Charbonier Road in Florissant. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. for both in-house dining and take out service. In-house service ends at 1:30 p.m. and take out service ends at 2 p.m.

Patricia Meitz, President of the SFTD committee replacing Ellen Lutzow, states, “This free dinner is for the community to come together and share a meal.” 

Meitz shared that SFTD served 695 dinners last year. In addition to the side courses and trimmings that go into the typical Thanksgiving Day dinner menu, last year’s service resulted in a lot of turkey distributed. Meitz stated that 34 turkeys totaling 730 lbs. have been ordered for this year’s dinner. Though annually the committee has received monetary donations to purchase turkeys, Krause Kakes and Katering, established in 1974, has carried the torch of preparing the turkeys for free the past 19 years and they will again this year. Don Krause and his family were honored for their years of volunteered service to SFTD’s mission last month at St. Ferdinand.

When asked how he became involved in the yearly initiative, Krause shared, “Pat von Nida has been friends of (my wife and I) for years. She contacted me stating she wanted to do something for a Thanksgiving dinner, an ecumenical dinner for all Christian faiths to come together to serve (those in need) and the poor.”

Before the dinner became a parish organization of St. Ferdinand Catholic Church in 2015, Pat von Nida, a parishioner of St. Ferdinand, was inspired by Pope John Paul II’s visit to St. Louis. His focus on interfaith and ecumenical relations motivated her to initiate the dinner in 1999 by gathering churches together in the Florissant area. She asked other churches in Florissant to sponsor a free Thanksgiving Day dinner for those who were in need, lonely, or desired a good dinner. Krause made a commitment to prepare the turkeys – roasting, carving and onsite service preparation the day of the event. Krause estimates that his business started out preparing between 20 and 25 turkeys annually for the dinner.

“We’re just one little part taking care of (the turkey preparations),” stated Krause. “There are so many wonderful volunteers.”

Krause shared that his oven capacity allots for the roasting of 10 turkeys at one time. The total preparation time is estimated at 24 hours or two days of roasting on rotation. Currently, he works with one or two other staff members to prepare the turkeys.

“In years past we used to come in and carve all the turkeys,” Krause shared of his children who were at an earlier stage in life 20 years ago. “We did that service. The (STFD) committee now brings volunteers here the day before (the dinner) and we all come together and carve. It’s really a mechanical operation now.”

Krause shared why he stays committed to the service he provides to STFD.

“Scripture says the poor will always be with you,” stated Krause. “We are just called to be of service to help. Simple as that. We can’t cure that – all we can do is be of service to feed. The more people get involved they are thankful to give back. That’s the gift – you’re giving back. You’re helping. People are very grateful for it. Coming together as a community, it’s inspiring. I’ll continue this until I guess I can’t do it, or the business isn’t around anymore.”

The dinner will serve its traditional menu of turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberries, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, rolls, butter and dessert. Helfer’s Bakery is donating sheet cakes, and St. Angela Merici Parish will donate pies. Florissant’s VFW Post is contributing water and soda beverages for the event. 

STFD has Odelehr Roadside Market and St. Ferdinand Girl Scouts to thank respectively who are providing festive decorations of pumpkins and gourds, and handmade creations. Meitz states that the decorations will be available for guests to take home after the event. In addition, placemats are being made by the school children of All Saints Academy of St. Ferdinand, St. Norbert, and St. Rose.

SFTD is a 501c3 and all donations go towards purchase of food for the dinner. The only exception is the purchase of any advertisement for the dinner to help them get the word out to the community. SFTD is currently made up of the following churches who organized and planned this year’s dinner: Halls Ferry Christian Church, Lutheran Church of The Good Shepherd, St. Angela Merici Church, St. Martin De Porres Church, St. Norbert Catholic Church, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, St. Sabina Catholic Church, St. Ferdinand, and two new additions this year—Olivette Missionary Baptist Church and The Body Christian Church. The committee is made up of representatives from the churches and other community volunteers. Volunteers who are not part of the planning committee assist with specific needs the day before and the day of the dinner.

STFD is still accepting monetary donations for this year’s dinner needs. To donate funds, checks can be made payable to “St. Ferdinand Thanksgiving Dinner” and mailed to: St. Ferdinand Catholic Church, 1765 Charbonier Road, Florissant, MO 63031. Any church or individual that is interested in being involved in the 2020 planning of the dinner may e-mail thanksgivingdinner@stferdinandstl.org

CUTLINE: Submitted photos

Cover-Thanks1 (From left) Reverend Michael Murphy, pastor of St. Ferdinand, stands with Don Krause of Krause Kakes and Katering and Patricia Meitz, president of the St. Ferdinand Thanksgiving Dinner.

Cover-Thanks2 Volunteers serve members of the community at the 2018 St. Ferdinand Thanksgiving Dinner.