For many years, our church did a massive fund-raiser called the Freezer Sale. Looking back, I can’t believe what was accomplished in that project. We literally cooked every Saturday from early summer through November, producing hundreds of homemade soups, entrees, side dishes, and pies. A small group of us steered the project from menu-planning to procuring ingredients to marketing the event and managing the financial record-keeping. This all culminated in a sale on the Saturday before Thanksgiving which became a community tradition.
Like many undertakings of this nature, the Freezer Sale eventually ran its course, and for a number of reasons—burn-out, Covid, changes in the evolution of the church itself—it no longer exists. Toward the end, it was turning into way too much work for way too few people, and then the pandemic sealed its fate. The dozen or so commercial freezers in the basement stand empty and unplugged and are probably on the market to be sold if they haven’t been already.
But on these crisp fall Saturday mornings, I miss coming into the parish hall and smelling onions cooking or chickens roasting or seeing a group of parishioners gathered around a giant trash can peeling apples or potatoes. There was always chatter and laughter and at times, frustration, and griping. None of us were professional cooks or had background in food management, but we just plugged along with the various skills that we had and made it happen. There was a spirit there, a sense of camaraderie, a sense of working for the greater good that superseded all of the challenges we faced. The Freezer Sale provided nourishment for the soul as well as the body.
We told our stories while chopping onions and vented our worries and fears while rolling pie dough. We laughed about the antics of grandchildren and pets while slamming overloaded trays into the cantankerous dishwasher. And after most cooking sessions, we sat down together to rest and share a communion of sorts. Coffee and baked goods after the liturgy of shepherd’s pie.
The Freezer Sale was an example of believing in what you cannot see. We did not see the elderly widow alone in her apartment, savoring ham and bean soup on a cold night. Or the family tearing into chicken enchiladas giving the exhausted mom time to catch her breath. Or that the proceeds from the sale provided a winter coat for a child, a rental or fuel oil payment, or Christmas gifts in a room that would be otherwise empty.
So occasionally I’m nostalgic for getting up early on Saturday mornings and lugging my Kitchen Aid mixer into the church for a mashed-potato-making marathon. Or sitting at the check-out desk, cash box at the ready, waiting for the doors to open on sale day. I miss the people and the knowledge that when one of us grew tired, someone would be there to take the spoon from our hand and keep stirring. And I miss the special grace that comes from showing up, even when you don’t feel like it, and saying, “What can I do to help?”