By Fred Koenig
The knob Noster UMC breakfast has the feel of a special, once a year event, but they do it every month. When you pay your three dollars, it will be obvious this isn’t a fundraiser. Its purpose is pure and simple – to give its community a time and place to commune together on a Saturday morning. Doris Blevins is a founder of the event, which started about eight years ago.
“We started doing this because there wasn’t really anywhere in Knob Noster to go,” she said. The United Methodist Women at that church decided to change that, and made use of the connection to visit St. Luke’s UMC in Kansas City, to see how they were doing a similar community breakfast. After that fact-finding mission, they were ready to go to work.
Timing worked well. For years the church had shared a parking lot with a neighboring auto repair garage. When that business went up for sale, the church stood to lose half of its parking lot. So they bought the garage, and remodeled it into a community center. It was quickly put to use as emergency housing for victims from Hurricane Katrina. But there wasn’t an immediate plan for how the building would be best used on a continual basis. The breakfast was the best idea to put it to use.
And put it to use they did. For the first breakfast they were really hoping for 50 people to show up, and they had 75. Word got out, and it continued to grow. Now the head count often has topped 300.
“We think if the weather is bad, they won’t come come, but they still do,” Blevins said. “We think when it’s real nice outside they won’t come, but they still do.”
Blevins story is a common one in the church – she came to Knob Noster 40 years ago for her husband’s job in the Air Force. When he retired they stayed. Katie Huntsman’s dad was in the military, and brought his family to the area when she was in the third grade. She stayed, and is now the coordinator of data for the local school district. Except on Second Saturdays, when she’s making pancakes, waffles and French toast.
Jerry Akins is a retired military officer, a retired superintendent of schools and an active dishwasher at
the breakfast. “The UMW got this going, but it’s the men that run the kitchen,” he said as he hustled about the kitchen filled with his fellow United Methodist Men.
Pastor Bryan Wendling flew Blackhawk helicopters, but he jokingly defers to the Air Force presence in his congregation.
“I was just in the Army. These Air Force guys have to know lots of math,” Wendling said. When he was appointed to the church in July of 2011, he was quickly recruited into the breakfast serving line. He’s not much on eating bacon and eggs for breakfast himself, but he understands the popularity. “For a lot of people here, this is like going to their high school reunion – once a month,” Wendling said.
William Diaz was at the church at 3 a.m. to start the monumental task of frying bacon – 45 pounds of it. When he got caught up with that, he helped cut fruit for the waffle station. He was on his way out soon after people started eating at 7:30 a.m.“It takes some time to fry that bacon,” he said, noting he had been part of the Second Saturday breakfast for five and a half years.
Knob Noster UMC was up in attendance last year by 10 percent, to 115.
“With all of our military, we have a lot of turnover,” Wendling said. “Six families will move out, and six more will move in. Our pictorial directory is obsolete by the time we get it back from the printer.”
Most of the congregation weren’t United Methodist before they came in door. They are there because they were invited by their friends, and they stay because they find the church really cares about its community.
The crowd at the breakfast table includes groups from United Methodist Churches in the surrounding areas. It also includes Bible study groups and cancer survivors. It was used as a rehearsal breakfast for a wedding party. “People plan their vacations around this,” said Neva Allen. “There have been people in hospice care who ask their caregivers to bring them here so they can see everyone again.”