Kenosha’s First United Methodist Church’s annual Thanksgiving meal returns to in-person

People looking for a hot Thanksgiving meal and some company during the holiday could find both at the First United Methodist Church Thursday afternoon, with people from all walks of life coming to the church’s 43rd annual Thanksgiving meal.

The free event took place in the church’s lower-level dining area, 919 60th St., with volunteers serving all the Thanksgiving classics. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie and more were free for any and all attendees.

Chefs Wil and Stina Rios, the event’s cooks since 2010, said they had been worried initially about returning to an in-person dinner after two years of serving to-go meals.

But Stina said they quickly got back into their groove as they worked.

“It’s back to normal. We got here and were like, ‘OK, we remember this,’” Stina Rios said.

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Organizer Kris Brown said they were excited to return to in-person dining and thanked the volunteers for donating their time.

“It’s like family,” Brown said. “We want to be able to share this with the community. We’re grateful to be able to share this tradition into the future.”

One volunteer, Alison Iglehart, was working with her mom to hand out food to guests. Although she’s not a church member, she started volunteering several years ago and enjoys interacting with people.

“I just like to give back,” Iglehart said. “It’s fun for me to be able to serve the food. It’s like a huge family to eat with.”

Veterans, former teachers, neighbors and more all sat down to eat and mingle.

Some guests were friends and family members enjoying a meal together, while others were those without family members to celebrate with — or without a meal for the day.

Kenosha resident Joan Young, a retired newspaper and radio reporter at Gateway Technical College, was there with her friend of 54 years, Jeannette Lovelace. Young said this was her second time attending the event, and Lovelace’s first.

“The food is good, and the people are nice,” Young said. “I get a chance to meet people and socialize.”

As the pair were eating, Lovelace’s brother and his friend surprised her by showing up. Soon all four of them were dining together, talking and laughing.

Lovelace said she was enjoying the gathering.

“I get a chance to meet people and socialize,” Lovelace said. “I want to see some more people I know. I don’t get out much.”

This year saw a smaller turnout for the dinner than usual, Wil Rios said, but because the leftovers are donated to the Shalom Center, he wasn’t worried.

“It’s all about what we can do, getting a meal to people,” he said. “I just want people to enjoy it, have a good day. That’s what it’s all about.”

Stina Rios said it was “nice to be back.”

“One of the biggest surprises was seeing all our volunteers in person,” Stina Rios said. “Getting to see people and hang out, you build a second family.”

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