For the past 11 Thanksgivings, members of the First Reformed Church on Centre Avenue have provided meals to members of the Secaucus community who may not be able to adequately feed themselves on a holiday centered on plenty.
However, as church pastor Will Henkel noted, church members try to give thanks through service throughout the year.
“Our King’s Kitchen program provides meals all year round,” he said. “These are people who get Meals on Wheels five days a week, but on the weekend they get nothing. We serve the 20 people most likely to be unable to prepare their own meals whose names are given to us by the town’s social services department.”
Henkel described the program as an ecumenical effort to help others throughout the town.
“There are five teams working on this program,” he said. “Two are from this church, two from the Roman Catholic Immaculate Conception Church and one from the Episcopal Church of Our Savior. The food is either prepared here or in the homes of our volunteers.”
It’s not just about the meals
Henkel pointed out that the meal program is designed not just to address the participant’s nutritional needs, but their spiritual needs as well.
“More important than the meals for us is the social contact that we provide for the people when we deliver the meals,” he said. “Some of them are very, very lonely are really look forward to the visit.”
The King’s Kitchen program may be an all-year affair, but it has its roots in Thanksgiving.
“It began because there was a family in the church who invited people to come to the church hall to enjoy Thanksgiving with them,” Henkel remembered. “They began to get calls from people saying that they couldn’t come, but would it be possible to bring meals to them. The program has now expanded to over 60 people for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Elva Grace Robinson is one of the King’s Kitchen coordinators for the First Reformed Church. She helps prepare the meals in her Harmon Cove home.
“I just love to cook,” she admits. “I even get my neighbors to help me.” Over the years, this help has included party favor decorations provided along with the meals from local Girl Scout Brownie Troop 2251.
Robinson went on to describe how to provide a nutritional meal with care and love.
“I enjoy seeing a pretty plate just as if I were serving somebody in my own home,” she said. “The other joy that I get out of it is the fact that I recognize that many of the people we visit have no one to talk to. When we visit, we just don’t give the meals and walk away. This is part of a ministry within the church. I can’t tell you how many interesting stories that I have heard from the people we go and see about the war days or their grandchildren. It’s the relationship that we build up as a Christian community. This is a work of love.”
Belief in the mission
Another volunteer worker in the King’s Campaign is Lee Aymar. She is the other coordinator for the program from the First Reformed Church. Originally from Germany, Aymar also admitted a passion for the culinary arts.
“I went to school in Germany for cooking,” she said. “I love to cook like Elva loves to cook. (Her goulash is widely praised.)”
Aymar also mentioned that there was something else involved when he walks into the kitchen to begin preparing holiday meals for others.
“When you do this, you show the love of Jesus,” she said. “This is why we do this. This is why we are here. It’s so fulfilling to do it. You have to experience it to put it into words.”
For more information about the program call (201) 867-9178.