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Pumpkin bread baked with care – for community

Pumpkin bread baked with care – for community

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LAKE WALES – Supplying 400 slices of pumpkin bread may sound like a daunting kitchen assignment, but it’s the mission accepted by First UMC, Lake Wales, as its role in welcoming hundreds of guests for Thanksgiving dinner.

The congregation is among churches banding together to combine a Thanksgiving meal and worship service Nov. 24 with the 30th anniversary celebration of Lake Wales Care Center.

It’s an ecumenical effort to recognize an ecumenical success.

“Thirty years ago, the churches in Lake Wales and Warner Southern College [now Warner University] united to say that rather than people going door to door for each church helping others, a central processing was needed,” said Rev. Jeff Kantz, pastor of First UMC and a Care Center board member.

“A clothes closet and a food pantry is where it all started.”

As people needed gasoline to go to church, and then housing and other needs became issues, the center took on each challenge, the pastor said.

Currently the Care Center runs a free medical clinic, two thrift stores and a Christian bookstore. Other ministries at the center include transitional housing, a pregnancy clinic, Meals on Wheels, home repair and stay-at-home work camp, holiday assistance, basic needs, youth coffeehouse, Care Corps, Literacy Council and a community kitchen.

Profile of First UMC, Lake Wales, steeple
First UMC, Lake Wales, is among more than two dozen churches that support community outreach through the Lake Wales Care Center. Photo from First UMC's Facebook page.

For the upcoming celebration, each of the participating Lake Wales churches will divvy up the task of providing a Thanksgiving meal, course by course.

“All the Lake Wales churches are asked to provide 400 servings of one different food item, and ours is pumpkin bread,” said Kantz’s wife, Gail.

“Right now we have 17 people baking loaves, and it will be advertised in our PowerPoint [presentation] and in the church,” she said. “I have 12 loaves now and am grateful for each loaf baked. I will plate them out before that, and they are now in our freezer.”

In celebration of the Care Center’s 30th year, tents will be set up at the Nov. 24 event, one tent for each food item. Volunteers from each participating church will serve guests as they arrive. Each attendee will visit each tent, with the goal being to end up having a complete Thanksgiving meal of sorts, the pastor said.

A representative of the Care Center also will stand by in each tent to explain one of the many ministries provided by the center. The reception will precede the traditional community Thanksgiving service at First Baptist Church, 338 E. Central Ave.

The reception is a new idea for this year’s Thanksgiving service because of the Care Center anniversary. Kantz, who has been pastor at First UMC for 10 years and a Care Center board member for six, said his church has had a longstanding connection with the center. 

“There are about 34 people on the whole Care Center board, [from] 26 different churches. There is something like 60 churches in Lake Wales; about a third of the churches have someone on the board of directors, which is a huge statement as this is about the community coming together. It represents the whole breadth of the community.

“Demographically and racially we are represented. The Care Center is the brainchild of all churches. So before the Thanksgiving service, there will be a ministry fair in the courtyard highlighting the various ministries of the care center.”

The ministry fair will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the courtyard at First Baptist, with the 7 p.m. service to follow inside the church. 

– Brenda Eggert Brader is a freelance writer based in Winter Haven.