Today is Friday, August 18, 2017

A new Thanksgiving tradition

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Chuck Keel, Kris Warmath & the late Doug Jennings at Fellowship House

It has long been a Thanksgiving tradition for me to hunt a few hours, early Thanksgiving morning. Oddly for some reason, I have been quite lucky on these short hunts.

On one occasion, I killed an eight-point that measures just over 130-inches. That is good buck for Wilson County.

Just a couple years ago, I killed a six-point and doe just seconds apart.

Last year, if I remember correctly, I killed a doe.

This year, I am not going. In addition, this isn't really going to be a hunting column or even an outdoor column for that matter.

This is about how I will spend several hours tomorrow morning. It is about a new tradition.

Starting quite early, well before daylight, I will be cooking turkey and shrimp gumbo for the annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Fellowship House.

Never heard of it? Not surprising but I'll bet you have driven by it.

Since 1989, the house at 206 South College Street, has quietly been a haven for those in need. It serves many purposes for many people.

Through the leadership of Eddie Evins and contributions from family members and friends, the house was bought in 1989.

Since then, it has served as a location for various meetings from Bible study classes to substance abuse recovery meetings.

With the legal help of Jean Evins, the house was formally incorporated as a 501-C-3. Since then, it has served as a "half-way house" for men in recovery from alcoholism and addictions. There are also 22 recovery meetings and a daily Bible study held there every week.

A second house was later purchased on Spring Street as the need for structured and affordable places to live, grew in Lebanon.

Residents are randomly tested for drugs and must perform several duties around the houses.

They must be willing to attend a daily meeting and after a period, must find employment. A modest rent is charged and the men have access to a kitchen, living room, bath/shower and have their own bed.

Currently, a total of 11 men may be in residence at one time.

In March of this year, the adjacent property on the south side of the house was purchased. There were three houses on the property. The one in front was demolished and a badly needed parking lot replaced it.

The two houses at the rear of the property will be renovated to provide additional living space. Fund raising efforts are now underway to pay those costs. (Hint -- donations are more than welcome.)

Kris Warmath became the director of the Fellowship House and the Spring Street residence in 2002. He oversees the day-to-day operation, administers the random drug tests, collects the rents, pays the bills and monitors the activities of the residents.

Attendance at the daily/nightly meetings may vary from a few to as many as 70 people.

The 10:45, Sunday Bible class, known as the "Chicken Church" for the chicken and other dishes served free each week, has drawn as many as 50-visitors.

The non-denominational service is presided over by Dr. Larry Locke and Dr. George Robertson and everyone is welcome.

Each Thanksgiving and Christmas, dinner is served to anyone who wants to come.

Many bring dishes from home to supplement the standards provided courtesy of the Fellowship House and various local donors. There may be as many as 40 in attendance.

That is where I come in.

It is, after all, Thanksgiving, a day to be especially thankful for what we have.

Although I have always been happy to cook a dish of some sort, due to the family gathering here at my house, I have not been able to do as much as I would like.

Since this year, we had the family Thanksgiving last Sunday to accommodate the various families involved, I am free tomorrow.

I thought what better way to show my thanks to the Fellowship House for all it does than to provide the turkey and a big pot of my shrimp gumbo.

So, I'll be cooking tomorrow instead of sitting in a tree, waiting for a deer to walk by.

Then, I'll head for 206 South College Street and the nine o'clock meeting followed by a great dinner.

It is all free and if you have an interest in just what is done in the easily overlooked house, stop by.

You will be more than welcome. I promise, it is worth it just for a bowl of my gumbo.

Some traditions are more important than others.

But at least the turkeys around my house are safe.

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