Editor’s note: Mark Krittenbrink’s stolen pick-up truck, featured in a column this past week, was recovered by the Norman Police Department.

Tyler LaReau no doubt gets a rash of clever suggestions for his popular, ever-changing storefront sign at University Boulevard and Main Street.

One January it was suggested that he promote the neighboring First Christian Church’s annual bean dinner that has benefitted an emergency medicine fund for more than 30 years. This year’s sign might have been even better.

“Church Bean Dinner, Social Distance, Please sit in your own pew.”

He passed on the suggestion.

Promoting a church bean dinner lends itself to all kinds of scatological puns for we scribes and those who put the headlines on there. But the work of the Christian Men’s Fellowship at First Christian Church is no laughing matter. The annual dinner won’t be held this year, interrupting a 30 year community tradition at the church. It’s another victim of COVID-19.

“It always turns out to be a fun event for us,” said volunteer Dave Saunders. “It takes about 30 volunteers to put it on.”

The men cook about 700 pounds of dry beans. There’s a night shift that picks through and soaks the beans, and an early morning shift that gets them in the pots for cooking and puts the cornbread in the oven. Other church volunteers make cookies. Another shift works the dinner and cleans up.

Fellowship members sell tickets throughout the community for the daylong event.

Three of the top ticket salesmen are only with them in spirit now.

“Charles Hollingsworth, Bob Thompson and Gene Blair. Those three men were well connected in Norman,” Saunders said. “None of the rest of us to my knowledge have those sort of connections any more.”

Besides the fellowship, the dinner serves as the annual fundraiser for the men’s group. They donated $8,300 to Variety Care in 2020. Over the years, they have donated about $160,000 for medicines.

Health for Friends, which later merged with Variety Care, was the initial beneficiary. The fund pays for emergency prescriptions for healthcare clients who need immediate help.

“We did $8,300 last year and we’re hoping to match that,” Saunders said.

First Christian pastor David Spain said the decision to cancel the dinner didn’t come without considering other options. Takeout would have still involved church volunteers gathering to prepare the meal.

“We thought about it and decided that even a takeout would put church members at risk and we didn’t want to take that risk,” Spain said.

They started talking about options in November.

Fellowship members will spend the month of January seeking donations for the emergency medicine fund. Checks can be sent to the church, 220 S. Webster, Norman, 73069, earmarked with the word bean. They hope to return to the church’s fellowship hall in 2022.

“It’s just been a wonderful tradition,” Spain said. “The group has a new minister and they are wanting to make sure that it happens this year. It’s an important cause, and the needs are still there, maybe more so this year.”

 

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