CROWN POINT — “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.”
The spirit behind that biblical message was not lost among volunteers and diners at Sts. Peter and Paul Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral Thursday for its annual Thanksgiving meal.
While some guests were awaiting friends to join them, others invited strangers to sit at their table.
Lindsay Magnuson and Mary Luczak, were both attending their second SSPP holiday meal. “We love everything about this,” Magnuson said. “It’s fantastic and joyful.”
Luczak added, “It’s healthy and there’s a nice assortment of food.”
Magnuson also noted, “If you’re alone, come to us. This is not fancy, and you can come as you are. No one should be alone at the holidays.”
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Traditionally, a member of the cathedral donates the meal, and this year Frank and Lily Cooper and their son Gerald provided dinner, including 12 turkeys. Also served were ham, stuffing, mashed and cooked potatoes, green-bean casserole, cauliflower and cheese, carrots, sweet corn and peas, rolls and three types of pies.
Donating the turkey and trimmings, Frank Cooper joked, “seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Lilly took a more serous approach, saying, “We felt it was our time to donate. Whoever comes, they’re welcome.”
Frank added, “We have no idea how many people are going to come. If they’re hungry, they can come here.”
The Coopers have been SSPP members for 27 years. The meal was open to church members and the community.
The Rev. Georgij Gligorov, one of two priests serving the cathedral, recalled the meal starting seven years earlier, when he arrived in 2015. Someone, he said, had the idea for the holiday dinner.
“We did not know how it would happen,” Gligoro said. “People usually like to spend the holidays at home. “
The idea, the priest said, was to enable people to “celebrate the holiday together, and we’re trying to preserve the tradition after COVID."
The priest estimated 100 diners would arrive. Some, like Magnuson and Luczak, came early.
Other early birds includes Dean and Yolinda Theis. The Valparaiso couple has attended past dinners and they love the food and fellowship.
“We’re meeting families here and they have a terrific time,” Dean said.
Yolinda added, “We have no children, so I don’t have to cook a big meal. We find a place to go. They’re very nice here and they do all this for us.”
“This is someplace to go,” Dean said, “and the people here are very friendly. We’re waiting for others who have no place to go for the holidays, either. This gives us a chance to get together and enjoy some company.”
Gligorov cited other church charities. The SSPP Ladies Auxiliary holds an annual fashion show that draws 500 women. Proceeds from that event go toward fighting cancer and other illnesses in the community and other medical fields.
The church also accepts donations for Christmas, and some of that money supports Macedonia.
If any food was left over, Frank Cooper said, patrons could take something home. Some leftovers went to an area food pantry.
Rusa Piskuloski, the church’s head cook, has volunteered every year and this was no exception. She kept busy, directing traffic from the kitchen to the serving tables.
“I enjoy everything — the turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and vegetables,” she said.
As to serving the community, Piskuloski noted, “It feels good to feed the hungry.”