MUSCATINE — As traditional as a big turkey dinner is on Thanksgiving in the U.S., not every family is able to have one. However, one local Muscatine couple is doing what they can to provide a Thanksgiving meal for those families in need.
For the fifth year in a row, Pastor Tom and Sandra Berryman from Island United Methodist Church will be cooking multiple turkeys, sides and desserts in the hopes of providing anyone in Muscatine in need with a free, family-style dinner to take home. Each meal contains enough portions of turkey (or ham), mashed potatoes, dressing, some kind of vegetable, cranberry sauce, rolls and pie for the family who ordered it to not only have a good meal but also leftovers.
Starting in 2014, the Berrymans had decided to bring what they had started in their previous community of Preston to their new home in Muscatine. “It was our personal way to give back to the community,” explained Sandra, “We don’t earn a lot of money, but we have enough to help, plus I love to cook.” Sandra used to own a catering business, so she’s used to cooking in volume and knows how to keep time on multiple dishes. “It’s a desire for the two of us to be able to help at a personal level.”
While not an official church event, the dinner giveaway has since become a bit of a community affair. The Berryman’s sons, along with Carrie Dennison and several of their other friends, have also volunteered to help either by donating containers to be used for the meals or by cooking various homemade dishes. The Knights of Columbus have also volunteered to help by providing food for another 30 meals, and in exchange, Sandra has promised to help with their annual beef and noodle meal.
“We’ve got some great people that pitch in and help,” Sandra said, “It’s just all of us working together. We’re Christians, and we love people, and that’s where our hearts are at.” Sandra and her volunteers start their cooking the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and by Thursday morning all dishes are packed up and taken to Island Methodist Church, where they are picked up by families who have registered.
Last year, about 155 Muscatine residents were fed through the Berryman’s efforts. Sandra plans to reach out to those helped by the event last year to see if they need a Thanksgiving meal again this year. However, she will accept anyone who needs a meal that day. “My flyer that I put up has a picture of a Thanksgiving spread, and I say ‘If this looks good to you and you’re in need this season, this can be yours’.” The Berrymans also plan to feed employees of the Muscatine Police and Sheriff’s departments who are working and won’t be able to make it home for Thanksgiving.
“It’s a pretty great feeling, seeing everyone that we’ve helped,” Sandra said, “people are pretty thankful, and it’s just growing each year.” Sandra and Pastor Tom also wanted to personally thank anyone and everyone who has helped with this event, and they appreciate all the help they have received. With all their efforts, this Thanksgiving should have plenty of delicious homemade food to be thankful for.