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Dorset church opens its doors, kitchen, heart

Darrell Gruis carefully lifts the foil cover on a steaming pan of sliced ham Sunday. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
Bill Singelman spent much of Easter washing dishes. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 2

Bill Singelman spent much of Easter Sunday toiling over a steaming dishwasher, putting tray after tray of plates, glasses and silverware through a commercial washer at First English Lutheran Church of Dorset.

The relatively small parish opened its doors and kitchen to the neighborhood and the region, serving more than 300 people ham, green beans, potatoes and gravy, salads and desserts.

It was a massive undertaking and two-dozen, or maybe it was fifty, volunteers eagerly accepted.

"We spent most of last week grocery shopping," said church member Dale Strei of the seventh annual community meal.

Saturday the men spent the day slicing ham. The cole slaw was prepared Sunday and food was popped into the ovens between the 6:30 and 10 a.m. services.

Darrel Gruis spent Sunday heating green beans, pulling steaming pans of ham out of the ovens and greeting guests from the kitchen, his face flushed from his efforts.

At 9 a.m. Shelly Coy and Cheryl Crist were up to their fingertips in whipped cream, slicing cakes and pies. Church members had signed up to bake them.

By 10:30, church members were the first through the buffet line.

The men lost track of the volunteers. Strei said, "Whoever's running around here. It's usually not enough."

Cheerful church members poured punch, cleared tables and washed dishes. Lots and lots of dishes.

When Singlelman was asked about his KP credentials, he laughed.

"I'm ex-Navy," he said as if that explained everything. His glasses were constantly fogged but he could see enough to work at a steady pace and keep three or four dish wipers busy.

Strei's credentials included relinquishing control of the kitchen at home to wife Arlene, then paying close attention through the years to her expertise.

The parish hall was noisy and hot as grateful diners flowed through the buffet line. Families gathered around tables and the hallway rang with appreciative thanks and laughter.

By 12:45 p.m. the room that seats 143 had turned over for its third time.

On a day when Christian charity is at its zenith, the weary members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod lived up to that mission over and over again.

And, throughout the noon hour, they packed and delivered meals to go.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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