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A Banquet is Born

Local couple recall the beginning of a banquet at Burger King

By Eugenia Jones
eugenia@highland.net

McCreary County’s annual Banquet of Blessings Community Dinner has grown by leaps and bounds since Fred and Kathy Berkowitz hosted the very first one at Thanksgiving in 2006 at the local Burger King where Fred was the manager. Having moved from Florida to McCreary County to be with family, Fred and Kathy were simply thankful to have found employment. As a result of Kathy wanting to do something special to say “thank you” to their many customers and friends, a community dinner was born.
Fred remembers that first dinner well.
“It was a lot of fun,” he recalled. “We set up a buffet in the lobby of Burger King and served about one hundred meals. We had music with a local band from the Coal Miners’ Jamboree. It went well-probably one of the most festive we’ve ever had with the music and all.”
Year after year, the community dinner continued to grow. After three years, the couple were approached by the county’s Christmas organization about joining forces to do a Christmas Community Dinner-a Banquet of Blessings.
The husband and wife team agreed to change their community dinner from Thanksgiving to Christmas and the location from Burger King to Whitley City Middle School. The rest, as they say, is history. The Banquet of Blessings has now grown to the point that it is expected to serve dinner to at least 1,100 people this year, and organizers were even able to make a sizeable donation to the Children’s Backpack program which provides food to hungry children at times when they are not in school. Working with many volunteers, the current Board officers are President Terry Baker, Vice President Bevo Greene, Secretary Cristy Hill, Treasurers Debbie Smith and David Duncan, and board members Larry Smith, Candice Bridgeman, Charity Ellis, Misty Creekmore Hamlin, Randy Dolen, Jill Dolen, and Kristina McFeeters.
Fred and Kathy remained actively involved with the Banquet for about five years after the dinner moved to the middle school location. Health issues forced the couple to slow down in recent years; however, they continue to order the food each year and help with fundraising. Fred makes sure everybody who needs a meal gets a meal.
One of Fred’s fondest memories from banquets at the Middle School location is remembering his friend, Jack Koger, being Santa.
“Those years when Jack Koger was Santa passing out toys to the children were very special,” Fred shared. “We had Santa, a tree, and gifts.”
Berkowitz stresses the Banquet of Blessings is for everyone. He also stresses the importance of everyone sitting down and eating together if possible. After all, fellowship is an important part of the tradition. The dinner is all about bringing the community together in thanksgiving for shared blessings.
“It’s not just a dinner for those in need,” Fred emphasized. “It’s a community dinner, and everyone is welcome. “
Fred and Kathy are pleased the community dinner tradition has survived and grown.
“Kathy and I thank God for all his blessings,” Fred said. “We thank all the donors, sponsors, and volunteers who help make the Banquet possible and for all those who stepped in and kept the tradition going when my wife and I were no longer able to be as active. We look forward to its continued growth and success.”
This year’s Banquet of Blessings will be at McCreary County Middle School on December 24 (Christmas Eve) from 11:00 until 4:00. The menu consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, and apple cobbler. Everyone is welcome at no cost.

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