ECMA Thanksgiving dinner a sit-down affair again for 2021

By Randy Gonzales
Special to the Hays Daily News

\Last year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance (ECMA) still offered its annual free Thanksgiving dinner.

“I think last year was important, a moment of hope,” said Brandon Nimz of Unite Ministries, president of ECMA. “A pretty stressful year for a lot of folks. I think it was good to come together and serve.”

Donated food items were collected and sorted by volunteers at Hays First Presbyterian Church to put together 300 free grocery bags available at the annual Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance.

Last year, instead of people gathering for a large communal meal, ECMA organized a drive-through pick up Thanksgiving dinner. This year, there still is the pick up option, but people also were able to sign up to eat at designated host sites, mainly at local churches.

“As far as this year, we’re excited to actually let people sit down together again, because part of the mission of the meal has always been to break bread together, so that people have a chance to be with others,” Nimz said. “We’re hoping that having many different sites will enable some good mixing and mingling.”

There also will be meals delivered to communal sites not open to the public, such as group living homes.

“We think, for now, it’s one of the best solutions we could come up with,” Nimz said of having three dining options.

The Press (Craft Kitchen & Cocktails) will cater Thursday’s meal of turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and roll with butter. Nimz said 923 people signed up for dinners.

In addition, donated food items were collected over the weekend and sorted by volunteers at Hays First Presbyterian Church. There will be 300 bags of groceries available, with food items left over donated to the pantry at First Call for Help.

This is the 24th year for the Thanksgiving meal, and the 14th year ECMA has hosted it.

“It’s quite a bit of moving parts,” Nimz said, “but thankfully everyone is coming together to serve and make a good day.”