Church, bank partner for holiday meal

By Tammy Keith Published November 8, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
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— The tradition of a free community Thanksgiving dinner in Conway will continue this year, but Centennial Bank is coming to the table with new partners.

“Everything has been moved to New Life Church,” said Eric King of Conway, the bank’s marketing manager. “We’ve joined forces with them and CoHo (City of Hope Outreach).”

Centennial Bank took over the event in 2009 after it was run for 20 years by Bob and Catherin Blankenship, the Conway couple who started the free dinner.

It was held at First United Methodist Church in Conway, which worked out well, King said. About 700 people were served, but about 500 were deliveries.

King said that this year, A Centennial Thanksgiving will work with Meals on Wheels, which doesn’t deliver on Thanksgiving, to fill that need.

More emphasis is being placed on deliveries, King said, but an on-site meal will also be served.

The free sit-down meal will be from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22) at New Life Church, 633 S. Country Club Lane in Conway.

New Life Church has provided lots of volunteers in the past, King said, and the location makes sense.

“They have a Dream Center. I wouldn’t call it a shelter, but there will be some needy folks there we can serve as well,” King said. “New Life has always been wonderful to work with.”

Quentin Washispack, who is in charge of missions and outreach at New Life in Conway, said the Arkansas Dream Center is an outreach at all of the church’s campuses.

It doesn’t have a physical location in Conway as it does in Little Rock, but the outreach works with people in need.

“We’re going to provide another 400 names [to Centennial] that we work with in the Conway Housing Authority and Conway schools,” he said.

Washispack said volunteers to help serve or deliver the meals may sign up at

King said the relationship between Centennial Bank and New Life makes sense.

“One thing about this program, especially when we join forces with New Life, [is] they are similar to us (Centennial Bank) as far as the locations they serve — they’re in Little Rock and Cabot — and if we have families in need, we can provide for those as well [through the church],” he said.

Catherin Blankenship said she was happy to hear about the new partnership.

“God blessed us for 20 years to do it, and we knew it was time to stop, and obviously, it was, because they’ve done a wonderful job. [God] blessed the community with another group to take it and expand it. I’m glad to hear they’re … joining hands with another group,” she said. “A family couldn’t extend it like a large group could.”

Carol Patty, who works with King in the bank’s marketing department, said, “Centennial Bank is so thankful we can do this for the community.”

Also, on Nov. 18, the bank will work with City of Hope Outreach for the second year to feed families in two Conway mobile-home parks: Oakwood Village and Brookside Mobile Village.

“We’ll provide a meal at each location, under a tent,” King said. “We’re providing the meals, and folks at CoHo will be serving it, and they will be the speakers.”

Both events will be held from 2-4 p.m. at those locations.

New Life will not be involved with those events, he said.

Phillip Fletcher, founder of CoHo, said there was a “great response” from those communities to last year’s Thanksgiving meal.

CoHo headquarters are in Oakwood Village. The outreach provides a computer center; tutoring for children; King’s Club on Saturdays, which includes a Bible study, games and snacks; and church services on Sundays. CoHo also put in a community center with laundry facilities and a playground.

Fletcher said the positive response from Brookside residents to last year’s holiday event spurred CoHo to launch a King’s Club on the second and fourth Saturdays in that community.

“We’ll be expanding there next year,” he said.

To order a Thanksgiving meal to be delivered, call (501) 328-4859. The deadline to register for home delivery is Nov. 19.

“We’ve already started to get orders,” King said. “It could be a family in need or a church; it doesn’t just have to be Meals on Wheels.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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