(Posted April 15, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Twice a year for the past 25 years, Tim Wilson has rallied a legion of volunteers to prepare and serve an average of 1,200 meals to raise funds for First United Methodist Church of London. The 50th dinner will take place April 26.
“It began because we got to church one Sunday, and there was a dollar in everyone’s bulletin,” said Wilson, a member of the church since childhood. “We were told to consider it a mustard seed and make it grow.”
That was 1990. The pastor at the time, Rev. Robert Thomas, was drawing on the biblical parable about how some-thing small, when nurtured, can become something much bigger.
At the first dinner, Wilson and his crew served about 250 meals. Four years later, they instituted a drive-through option and sold their most meals ever at 2,036.
All of the proceeds go back into maintenance of the church. Over the years, the dinner funds have helped to pay off the church’s elevator, boiler, restoration of the sanctuary, and installation of air conditioning, among other projects.
For all 50 dinners, the menu has remained the same. Customers choose between baked steak and pork tenderloin. The fixings include real mashed potatoes with homemade gravy, green beans, and cole slaw. Dessert is a choice of lemon cake or chocolate cake in the spring, chocolate or pumpkin cake in the fall, and it’s always served with ice cream.
Preparation starts four days ahead of the Tuesday night dinner. The to-do list goes like this: Saturday, bake cakes; Sunday, make slaw; Monday, peel 600 pounds of potatoes and prep the steak and pork; Tuesday morning, cook 70 gallons of green beans and put the steak on to cook low and slow for six hours. At 3:45 p.m., people are lined out the door and around the block in anticipation of the doors opening at 4.
“Then it’s three hours of organized chaos, but it works,” Wilson said. “It takes a good 50 to 75 people to pull this off. It’s a lot of work but we have a blast. Everybody just knows what to do.”
Wilson said people come from all around the county and beyond to purchase meals.
“There are so many dedicated people who have come for years. I wonder if any have come to all 50?” he said.
This year’s dinner will be available for dine-in or drive-through on a first come, first served basis from 4 to 7 p.m. April 26. The cost is $12 for adults and $8 for children younger than 12 years old. The church is located at 52 N. Main St., London.
For more information, call (740) 852-0462 or visit www.londonfumc.org.