Thanksgiving Feast moves to St. Mary's

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:14 AM

Everyone is welcome — all ages, all income levels, all inclusive — and delivery is available.

The feast has been sponsored each year by more than a dozen area churches. It has been held at C3 Exchange, formerly Christ Community Church, 225 E. Exchange St., since its inception.

Because the C3 building was up for sale and its availability was uncertain, event organizers decided to move the event. C3 officials have since accepted an offer on the property from the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids.

“We’re very grateful that the event remains in Spring Lake with C3’s former neighbors to the east,” said Bob Kleinheksel, C3’s minister of care and community life. “The purpose of the event remains the same ... simply to provide a meal, hospitality and good holiday spirit to anyone in the community who would like to gather.”

Kleinheksel said many of the 50-60 volunteers who served up the feast at C3 are still in place — including Cheri Wilson, who has been organizing the dining experience for 17 years.

“It’s kind of exciting,” Wilson said of the move to St. Mary’s. “My grandchildren go (to St. Mary’s Parish School). This was never a Christ Community or a C3 event. This is supported by many churches, service organizations and businesses in town. Everyone gives a little and it works.”

The traditional menu includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, carrots, cranberry salad, rolls and pumpkin pie. Between sit-down and delivery, the feast serves more than 600 meals each year, according to Wilson.

Wilson said she’s brainstorming ways to bring the cozy ambiance of the C3 parlor to the larger space at the St. Mary’s multipurpose area.

“It’s not quite the same atmosphere, but we’re going to do a little more with table decorations and hopefully make it feel warm and inviting,” she said.

St. Mary’s students will set up the dining area, according to the church’s business manager, Mary Cassleman.

“It’s kind of amazing to me that it’s such a good fit,” Cassleman said. “We have a hot-lunch kitchen here and another one upstairs. Many of our parishioners volunteered at Christ Community. It’s a very unifying event. Bringing all the people in the community together to work on something is just so nice.”

Chief feast chef Dan Steigenga has been roasting close to 30 turkeys every Thanksgiving for almost two decades. He said he’s not about to stop now.

“I’m excited about the new venue,” Steigenga said. “I’ll have more kitchen space to work with. This was developed 18 years ago to put together families. We’re not going after the needy or the homeless, although they’re totally invited. This is a family event. If you’re sitting home alone on Thanksgiving, you’re missing out. Come join us.”

For transportation to the feast or for home meal delivery, call 842-1702 no later than 4 p.m. Wednesday. Reservations are not necessary for the sit-down dinner.

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