NORMAN — It quite possibly could be the best deal in town. For the low, low price of $5, the Christian Men’s Fellowship of First Christian Church in Norman will serve up a piping hot bowl of beans, a drink, cornbread and will even throw in a cookie for dessert.
The best part about the church’s annual Benefit Bean Dinner, in its 23 years, is that the proceeds go to the medication fund of Health for Friends, a Norman nonprofit that has provided 25 years of patient-centered health care to the medically needy.
This year’s bean dinner will be Tuesday. Lunch is served at the church, 220 S. Webster Ave., from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Dinner is served from 4:30-7 p.m. For $5, individuals get all the beans (white beans and brown beans) they can eat, along with cornbread, dessert and drinks. Take-out is available as well.
“The members of CMF put a lot of work into this. It begins with sorting and cleaning the beans and baking thousands of oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies the weekend before the dinner,” said Gary Hardwick, associate minister from First Christian Church. “A crew arrives at 4 a.m. on the day of the dinner and begins the cooking. Then there are kitchen and serving staff for both lunch and dinner. And all of the men sell tickets. We have about 70 men of all ages who work in various roles to make the bean dinner a success.”
The first few dinners, Hardwick said, were small. But, over the years the First Christian Church bean dinner has become one of Norman’s biggest events.
“As with many projects, the first few bean dinners were small, but with the support of the church and many individuals, businesses and organizations in the community, it has grown,” Hardwick said. “I think it speaks to the dedication of the men at First Christian Church that this event is still part of Norman and so successful. The first bean dinner served about 400 people and we sold around 500 tickets. Last year, and this year, our ticket sales are approaching almost 2,000. Over the last several years, we have sold approximately 1,800 tickets every year and serve about 900 to 1,100 people on the day of the dinner. It has become a well-known event in the community, and every year as we serve the food and wait on tables, we hear people speak about how much they look forward to the bean dinner. Just between you and me, I think we have a great recipe for our beans. They are tasty.”
Since its inception 23 years ago, the Benefit Bean Dinner has raised more than $100,000 for Health for Friends.
“This year, the staff will set up a table with information about the agency and to thank everyone for their support,” Hardwick said. “I think people are anxious to help out with an agency like Health for Friends that has also been a part of the community for many years and done an amazing job of providing health care services to those who might not otherwise receive it. I know that there are lots of small businesses that bring all of their employees each year. Other businesses buy lots of tickets and distribute them to their employees.”
Brian Karnes, CEO of Health for Friends, said all of the money received from the benefit helps pay for prescriptions for Health for Friends patients who are least able to afford their medications.
“Members of our medical staff work with local pharmacies, pharmaceutical prescription assistance programs, $4 lists and generic drug lists in order to make the best use of every dollar donated to our Medical Voucher Program. This financial support makes a huge difference in our ability to help our low-income patients get well and stay well,” Karnes said.
Karnes is grateful for the support of the faith communities in and around Norman.
“That they help in this way year after year, what a great indicator that they know that the donations of the members of their congregations and parishes and communities are being put to good use helping people, and now children, have better lives, healthier lives, more hope,” Karnes said. “We really are just so grateful, as are our patients. Seeing people from all over Norman at the bean dinner, seeing how quickly people were ‘sharing’ the Facebook posts about the benefit, making plans to be there, it’s just great. It makes me very proud to be from Norman and to be associated with Health for Friends.”
For more information on the bean dinner, call 329-2192. Tickets can be purchased at the church office or at the door at no extra cost.