Photo: A group of volunteers from Oakview Baptist Church serves holiday dinners. /Photo by John Starkey
For over 15 years, Bruce Goldberg has been volunteering at Serving Irving, the annual Oak View Baptist event that passes out meals to Irving communities on Thanksgiving. Each of those years, he comes away humbled by the experience.
“A lot of people are alone on the holidays,” Goldberg said. “They don’t have funds. They don’t have food. Serving Irving is a little bit different than other places where the people come to a large serving area and eat. This is more of an outreach to the people, and they do this because a lot of people are afraid to go to a serving place.”
Goldberg joined nearly 100 other volunteers last Thursday, Nov. 24, as part of Oak View’s 22nd annual event. This year, the group served almost 3,000 meals in over 14 locations as well as homeless communities. The meals cost in total around $8,000 to $9,000 and the church relies heavily on food and monetary donations. Joe’s Coffee Shop in Irving is among one of the biggest contributors.
“Sometimes they give us 100-150 pies,” said Roy Soto, Minister of Missions at Oak View Baptist. Soto is a Missions coordinator and part of a team responsible for organizing events for the worship community. “Joe’s is big in helping us out. It’s a great thing with them. Every year they’re ready to serve, ready to pitch in.”
Preparation for Serving Irving begins a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. Volunteers can sign up for one of five different teams: Paper Goods, Pie Making, Turkey Slicing, Set-Up, and Serving.
“A week before the event, we go to the captains of the volunteers,” Soto said “We do a little training in what they need to bring, what needs to be taken; so we have all of the things that they need.
“Monday, we have people that come and take all of the paper goods and pack them. Tuesday, we rest for service. Wednesday, we get the Turkey sliced and get all of the green beans and gravy ready.”
On the day of the event, teams start coming in as early as 5 a.m. to begin preparing the turkey and mashed potatoes. At 10 a.m., volunteers leave to their designated sites. They work until around 2 or 3 p.m., and then a few remaining volunteers work on passing out any leftovers.
“I continue to drive until I have most all of the food gone in the trailer,” Goldberg said. “There have been years that we’ve finished at 8 o’clock at night. There’s never any food left over. Very little food comes back. You don’t want the food to come back.”
Despite weeks of preparation, Soto explains that anything can go wrong on the day of serving, and you have to plan for everything.
“This year, one of my captains put all of the stuff in his car, and it wouldn’t crank,” Soto said. “It was almost ten o’clock and his team was waiting for him. So at the last second we loaded as much as possible into co-Pastor Ron Kurtz’s car and he took off. It was a lot of pressure, but it turned out real good. Ron was the hero right there.”
After the last bits of food are served and all of the trays cleaned, Soto’s work is not quite done.
“We have a little form, a little card that the recipients put their names and all of their basic info,” Soto said. “Then later on, we contact them. We just want to say we’re praying for you and thank you for coming to be served.”
“Sometimes they have other needs, and this is what we’re there for, to serve them, to try to make a difference and impact their lives through the love of Christ.”
Goldberg shared a final story that summed up his experience.
“This year, a lady came up to us. She was crying because she was alone for Thanksgiving. She didn’t have a place to stay. She didn’t have a place to go. She went to eat with the other people that we served in that area, and she was sitting with them having Thanksgiving with other folks,” Goldberg said. “What more could you ask – to have a wonderful meal and to have others to talk to.”