Annual St. Ferdinand Thanksgiving Dinner in Florissant provides a free meal to anyone who desires it
By Charlotte Beard
The months of November and December are particularly difficult for many people due to the increasing loneliness that is felt with the holiday season. Others have trouble celebrating the holidays due to income or physical challenges. For 19 years a group of North St. Louis County churches has aimed to alleviate some of those challenges by providing free Thanksgiving Day dinner to anyone that desires it. On Nov. 22, this group will host its yearly 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.
Ellen Lutzow, President of the SFTD committee, shared “We really work to provide as many dinners as possible to as many persons as possible. We do not want to turn anyone away, but we know that happens.”
Sources state that SFTD served over 600 dinners last year. Lutzow shared that they ordered 670 lbs. of turkey but ran out.
“That is the first time we ran of turkey that I remember,” stated Lutzow. “We do have limitations in our kitchen with what we can reasonably serve, and we think we are at or close to our kitchen limits for turkey. So, we are at the same level of turkey going into this year’s dinner.” Lutzow has requested that attendees be patient with them if they encounter any problems.
The dinner will serve its traditional menu of turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberries, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, rolls and butter. In addition, Helfer’s Bakery is donating sheet cakes, a parishioner of St. Sabina is donating brownies and pies will be provided by St. Angela Merici and Lutheran Church of The Good Shepherd. Krause Katering & Kakes continues to volunteer time to prepare the turkeys SFTD purchases with donated funds. Lutzow notes that the donated produce used for decoration will be available for guests to take home.
SFTD is a 501(c)3 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, and St. Ferdinand. 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. SFTD has successfully filled all its slots for volunteer needs for both days.
The vision for this yearly dinner was birthed in 1999 by parishioner Pat von Nida of St. Ferdinand, following Pope John Paul II’s visit to St. Louis. She was inspired by the Pope’s focus on interfaith and ecumenical relations to do an ecumenical dinner by bringing churches together in the Florissant area. She took the initiative to ask other churches in Florissant to sponsor a free Thanksgiving Day dinner for those who were in need, lonely, or desired a good dinner. In 2015 the yearly tradition became a parish organization of St. Ferdinand Catholic Church.
“We are always involved in reaching out to other churches to be involved in planning,” stated Lutzow.
Any church or individual that is interested in being involved in the 2019 planning of the dinner may e-mail email@example.com. To donate funds to this yearly initiative, checks can be made payable to “St. Ferdinand Thanksgiving Dinner” and mailed to: St. Ferdinand Catholic Church, 1765 Charbonier Road, Florissant, MO 63031.
CUTLINE: Submitted photo Participants enjoy a previous St. Ferdinand Thanksgiving Dinner at St. Ferdinand Catholic Church in Florissant.