By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

The second annual Grateful Gathering was held on Thanksgiving Day at Rainbow Mennonite Church in Mountain City. 

The brainchild of Rainbow Mennonite pastor, Gary Gambill, and his wife, Tomahawk editor, Angie Gambill, the Grateful Gathering was launched last year in an effort to provide food and fellowship to those in need in the Johnson County community. The Gambills began their ministry, SONshine and Reign, in conjunction with the first annual Grateful Gathering. The ministry and the gathering have quickly gained many to serve – thus further highlighting the need for such programs in the region, where poverty is a central issue.

When asked why she and her husband chose to take on the challenge of feeding the hungry throughout the community, Angie Gambill responded, “We felt a strong call from God about a year and a half ago to feed the hungry among our people. Our first step toward that was the forming of SONshine and Reign Ministries and last year’s first Grateful Gathering.”
Attendees at the 2015 Grateful Gathering were welcomed by steaming hot turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, green beans and enough delectable desserts to make the Tooth Fairy cringe. The tables in the Rainbow Mennonite Fellowship Hall were decorated festively with cornucopias aplenty. Similar to the 2014 Grateful Gathering, the atmosphere was more like a welcoming family meal rather than a soup kitchen – a detail the guests undoubtedly appreciated.

The effort involved in feeding about two hundred people cannot be overstated. Planning, shopping, preparing the astounding amount of food, serving and cleanup for the Grateful Gathering was accomplished solely by volunteers. Though the work is tiresome one would be hard pressed to find a volunteer without a smile on his or her face proving the benefits of outreach programs come full circle. Angie Gambill was asked to name those most instrumental in the success of the Grateful Gathering and she replied, “We especially thank our church family for allowing us to hold the Grateful Gathering in the fellowship hall and for ALL the help we received from them. You are truly the wind beneath our wings. Thank you to Kathy Brewer, Helen Pardue, Dick and Jewel Stout, and Harold and Brenda Shoemaker for helping us coordinate and organize all the different aspects of the day. Special thanks to Chris and Ryan Gambill for the hours of food preparation beforehand. Keith Farmer donated all the turkey and ham for the day, which freed a big chunk of our money for other purchases. Without the financial assistance throughout the year from Greg and Edna Miller and Phil and Paula Walter, we simply would not have had the resources needed for this year’s Grateful Gathering. We extend a heartfelt thank you to Candy St. Lawrence for the donation of a beautiful quilt that we raffled off that brought us much needed money and to Wiley and Caroline Roark for a generous donation. We also appreciate Paula Walter and Jean Zuercher for the huge box of crocheted hats for all those that needed one.”

Grateful Gathering volunteers often speak of the heart-warming experiences they’ve witnessed as part of this event. — one such memory was shared by Kathy Brewer. Brewer shared with Angie Gambill a heartwarming moment in which a woman told her in passing that she didn’t have anyone to spend Thanksgiving with and was unable to prepare a meal for herself. Brewer sprung to action and went as far as to pick the woman up and bring her to the Grateful Gathering. Angie Gambill went on to say of the moment, “I’m not sure which the lady appreciated more – the meal or the warm welcome that she received and the fellowship that she enjoyed there. It did my heart good to watch her and know that we had a part in brightening her day.”

Thankfully, the Grateful Gathering is here to stay.

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