It wasn’t planned. Well, I told my daughter to meet me at the church picnic/softball game. She biked there while I picked up some ice on the way. But I saw two bikes parked at the Alvethorpe Park pavillion, and the second one was Sandy Hull’s.
What I’m really writing about is a summary of what it took to put on the church picnic and how it affected me.
A few volunteers with know-how
Mimi Satterthwaite had done this before. She’s much more organized than I am. Putting on events just isn’t my thing. And that’s why I’m creating notes. So, the next time I can be a little more intentional and a little less fatalistic.
We had about 50 people, and about seven volunteer helpers: Bob and Donna Steck, my daughter Jessica, Mimi and Jeff, Wendy Browder and myself. Tom, who works at Alvethorpe got the lights on, parking gate open and bathrooms unlocked when I arrived.
Christy Pietsch sent me a “how to” email
Organizing team provides hot dogs and lemonade and water. If organizing team would like to provide other food, like for example hamburgers, that can be done. It really is up to the team. Last year we decided on hot dogs, because it was easy. Attendees bring a side dish or dessert for sharing.
Volunteers have to be recruited to shop (hot dogs, charcoal, ketchup, mustard, relish, etc.). Expenses will be reimbursed by the church.
Napkins, cups, plastic forks/knifes, paper plates came from the church supply closet in the basement. Someone has to go through the supply and pick an approximate amount needed for the event and drive it over to Alverthorpe Park. Any items left over are returned to church.
Volunteers have the be recruited to set-up, grill the hot dogs, clean up.
Volunteers have to be recruited to make the lemonade and bring water. Last year we filled the two 5 gallon containers we have at church, one with water and the other one with lemonade (used powder that we have at church). Alternatively, water and drinks could be purchased. The 5 gallon containers need to be cleaned and returned to church.
Announcements have to written up for the church bulletin as advertisement.
Last year, I stood near the Palmer room after church, personally invited everyone who passed by, and had sign up sheets to get people to sign up as attendees and volunteers (two weekends in a row prior to the event). That way you have an estimate of how much food needs to be bought. Also, people are more likely to come if personally invited.
Mimi and Bob’s welcoming efforts
Prior to the event, Mimi set up a table with a sign up sheet. I tried to create an online form, but Christy was right – it makes sense to personally invite people to an event. Mimi set up a little table with a baseball hat, pot and sign up sheet and got people to sign up. She said, “Once people start signing up, there’s momentum.”
While I wasn’t so helpful, I succeeded in taking a photo of Philip looking like a deer caught in headlights as he signed up.
I did make a flyer, but people just needed a simple note about the date, time, location, where to sign up.
Bob Steck reached out to Cedar Park Presbyterian Church and welcomed them to join us. What a gift! We definitely have to do more with Cedar Park. They are just awesome people. Here’s an audio interview worth listening to. Personally, this was my introduction to Cedar Park.
By meeting people, we can find meaning through collaboration.
Life’s better through fellowship
Over dinner, I talked with Gloria, who had grown up in St. Paul on Fairmount and St. Clair Avenues in Saint Paul, MN. I got to know Ed and Michele a little better and thought about how awesome it is that they are part of our congregation. Paul told me about a history of the revolution he was reading – something about a NY Woman’s experience in housing a wounded British soldier. It was great to see Trina and Ann, Darlene’s family, Bob and Gail MacFarland and others. It was great to see Donna and Michaela there. And Cindy Wollman stopped by with delicious salad but couldn’t stay. Cindy’s smile and willing to pitch in even when she has multiple commitments is of great value to Grace Church.
Stephanie, our new Associate Pastor
Stephanie Templin Ashford and her daughter came to the picnic. This coming Sunday the congregation will vote to install her as a minister. This was the first time most of us had met her in person. My first impression was that she is very approachable, pleasant, and cares a lot about family. I look forward to getting to know her.
It takes about a half hour to get the charcoal grill going. Mimi and Jeff brought a stove pipe starter. We needed about 15 lbs of charcoal. Maybe we could have gotten by with 10 lbs. Mimi brought a couple of grates for grilling that were cleaner than the grates at the park. Jessica took charge of cooking hot dogs and did a great job.
Thanks to Chris Davis at JYA, we had two big bags of softball gear. Chris and his wife, Carolyn have been outstanding leaders in Jenkintown. I met Chris in 2002 when he showed my wife Sandi and I how to build steps for Jenkintown Playground castle. This past year, the Chris, Carolyn and their daughter, Maggie, were leaders the Philadelphia Chapter of CISV. Because of their leadership, my kids have made friends all over the world (and traveled to Norway and Brazil this summer).
We had fun pitching and hitting at the picnic. A boy named King hit a powerful line drive right at my daughter Jessica that she wasn’t expecting. It was pretty funny. Jeff, Sandy, Maya, Ellie, Kate, Nathaniel and others all played on the really nice playing field.
Jeff had some frisbees, and these are fun for an event like the picnic.
Checklist & food details
Plates, cups, plasticware, napkins, water cooler, lemonade cooler, ice, hotdogs (1.5 per person), buns, bulk condiments (I got a pack from Costco). In the future, we need vegetarian options. People brought more desserts and fruit than salads. The cheesecake and blondie/brownies were the popular desserts. There was a sink to fill up the coolers.
Cooking supplies: Grilling grates, tongs, matches, 10-20 lbs charcoal, tin tray to put the hotdogs on, hot pads.
Name Tags! I love name tags, and Sandy Hull made sure we had them.
Time involved included:
- Reserving the picnic space – 15 min
- Writing an announcement – 30 min
- Call for volunteers – 15 min
- Having a sign up table – Four Sundays
- Reviewing the checklist – 15 min
- Checking the closest for supplies 15 min
- Going shopping – 1 hr
Total prep time – < 4 hours, split between multiple people.
Two things we can do better:
Bob MacFarland pointed out that our communications could be much improved. I agree. And as an organizer, I probably should understand how to get something posted on the gracejenkintown.org‘s events page. It’s not enough that info goes out in the Grace Happenings email.
In addition, we can think about healthy food options. Many people are vegetarians and would like to have had an option to hotdogs. And while the desserts tasted good, we were heavy on the desserts and a bit light on salads.
An event like this is important to fellowship. It spawns ideas for collaborations with broader communities and as well as opens doors for new friendships. Michaela told me she’d bike to the store with me and that she doesn’t have a bike. I look forward to learning more about Cedar Park because I feel that anything Grace Presbyterian Church does with Cedar Park can only be a positive experience.
Darlene Reeves proposed an ambitious project for our church, Rise Against Hunger. We can prepare 10,000 meals by bringing people together this fall. My initial thought in response to this was, “That’s more than I want to involve myself with. I’m not an event person.” But, and this may sound like a strange comparison… We have to embrace our fears and lean into new experiences.
I’m reading a book by Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind. In it, he talks about losing your sense of self through the LSD experience. The researchers say that when you are losing your sense of self, you have to embrace this unknown with trust.
In this way, fellowship is kind of like LSD. We take a risk to engage with a community, and this brings us unexpected experiences that are positive. People are unique. And I would say that this church potluck picnic was special. It brought out generosity. I liked that individuals came together as a community with a generous and caring spirit. I’m glad to have been a part of it. It’s a step forward for me in taking some responsibility.
As individuals, we can’t always show up. But we can embrace activities that enhance fellowship, celebrate the moment and be grateful. This is community, where love melts fear. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Sometimes just participating is enough.
Note – Thanks, Michaela for the photos!