Story and photos submitted by the Rev. AJ Bush
Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Gillette, Wyoming
Every year around Thanksgiving, the entryway of First United Methodist Church in Gillette, Wyoming, is full of empty boxes waiting to be filled with food. Members of the church sign up to fill the boxes with everything needed for a delicious Thanksgiving meal - including potatoes, stuffing, Jello, and dessert. The food boxes are collected and dropped off at two local elementary schools where they are delivered to families in need.
This year, however, things were a little different. Instead of seeing potatoes and stuffing in every box, pinto beans and rice started to make an appearance. This change in food items was a result of the church's new efforts to connect with Hispanic families in their community. "Instead of just assuming what people needed for Thanksgiving, we wanted to go and ask what families really wanted," said Pastor AJ Bush. "We met with a Hispanic family in the community and were able to put together a list of food items for a more traditional Hispanic holiday meal."
The items for the Hispanic boxes included:
Whole dried chili peppers
Dried pinto beans
Tomato and Chicken bouillon cubes
Corn husks for tamales
Gift cards to local grocery stores are also provided to each family so they can purchase meat and/or other fresh items.
The boxes were delivered Nov. 21 and each family was grateful to receive the food.
The mission team at the church reported that "one of the best things about this initiative is that we were able to take something we were already doing and change it just enough to be more inclusive of our neighbors. We didn't have to start something entirely new. We just looked at what we were already doing and asked 'how could we make this more hospitable to everyone in our community?'"
This new effort is just one way First UMC is striving to reach out to the Hispanic community in Gillette, and they hope to continue to connect with this community in more ways moving forward.