COLUMBIA — Mike Bishop hoped to spot sweet potato pie Wednesday night at the end of the Thanksgiving buffet line at Paquin Tower.
"I know everyone probably wants pumpkin pie, but I don't like the nutmeg in it," he said.
Bishop was one of more than 20 members of Columbia's Karis Community Church who brought their turkey basters and canned cranberries to prepare and serve a Thanksgiving dinner for about 60 Paquin Tower residents Wednesday evening. Another handful brushed up on their bluegrass skills to provide dinner music.
Columbia’s Department of Parks and Recreation staff usually holds the annual dinner but weren't sure if they would be able to this year because of budget cuts. Karis members were delighted to step in.
“We’re passionately interested in what goes on in this city, and displaying the love of Jesus through practical acts of helping people right here,” said Ryan Worley, an intern at Karis. "This is another great opportunity to live our mission."
Karis members gather to worship in the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts one hour every week. Their theology leads them to spend much of the other 167 hours of the week working to make Columbia, specifically the District, a better place to call home, Worley said. During the past year, they’ve thrown a monthly game night at Paquin and hosted a cookie-decorating party there last holiday season.
Paquin Tower is a government subsidized Columbia residence for disabled and elderly people. Crystal Hampton, Paquin Tower resident services coordinator, said about 200 people currently live there.
Aaron Perkins has lived in Paquin Tower for about 15 months. He said visits from Karis members give residents a dose of the outside world and the motivation to foster a sense of community in their own nook of the world.
"They've helped us branch out and socialize with each other, and we've even launched our own game nights. After this dinner is over, there will probably be a group of us playing cards or dice out here."
Michelle Busby became a Paquin Tower resident two weeks ago. Her mother lives there too.
"This is absolutely wonderful what Karis does here, because some people have family and some don't," Busby said. "I'm lucky to have mine so close."
When dinner began Wednesday night, four Karis members played a twangy version of Coldplay's song "Viva La Vida" as people migrated towards the buffet line. Bishop, a Paquin Tower resident for 19 years, was one of the first in line. He came back to his table with three plates of food — one with three different, little mountains of dessert on it.
"There's pecan pie, German chocolate cake and I don't know what that pink pile of stuff is called," Bishop said, "but I know it has fruit cocktail, marshmallows and whipped cream in it."
As Bishop joked while he ate with his buddy Bob Hanaford, Bishop didn't seem too heartbroken by the lack of sweet potato pie.
"Did you see how long it took him to get through that food line," Hanaford said about Bishop. "He didn't care what ended up on his plate, he was too busy talking to the women here."