Blue skies, picnic tables, friendly faces and the smell of hot dogs in the air brought people to Winston Square Park Sunday afternoon to enjoy the free Downtown Community Cookout hosted by First Presbyterian Church.
Residents of West Salem neighborhood, Crystal Hall and her two grandchildren Mila and Rahnard Hall, first learned about the event on Facebook. “It’s something different and I’ve met some really nice people here,” Crystal Hall said. She said they had been to the church before so when they heard of the event, they decided to go.
This event marks the second year that the First Presbyterian Church has hosted the Downtown Community Cookout and the church intends on making it an annual event for every fall Karen Schoulda, the Outreach and Hospitality coordinator of First Presbyterian Church, said. This year included everything from face painting to an ice cream truck to hotdogs with several condiments including ketchup, chili, mustard, and more. In fact, one of First Presbyterian Church’s member, Scott Haynie grilled 1,200 hotdogs for neighbors to enjoy with their families and other downtown neighbors.
According to Schoulda, around 550 people attended the cookout, but “the estimate may be off a little because of all the little kids running around.” All of the leftover food ended up being donated to the Samaritan Inn, which is a homeless shelter in Winston-Salem according to the Outreach and Hospitality coordinator of First Presbyterian Church, Karen Schoulda.
Schoulda emphasized that the church was not hosting the cookout in order to persuade people to come to their church or force their beliefs on anyone; they truly just wanted to get to know the people. “First Presbyterian Church is having a cookout and is inviting all of our neighbors. There is no hidden agenda,” said Schoulda.”We are here and just want to share a meal with you.” According to Schoulda, she believes that the church should be loving towards its neighbors and the community through sharing a meal.
Right when people walked on Marshall Street for the cookout, they were greeted by long time church members and volunteers. Volunteer Charles Huneycutt from Ardmore neighborhood started going to the church as a visitor in 1977 until he officially joined as a member in 1980 and has been volunteering through the church for the past 11 years. Huneycutt said that he believes these events “bring all types of people together. It’s as if we are expanding our family.”
According to volunteer Kathy Shields, the church hopes to show people in Winston-Salem that they are a part of the community and that the church is their neighbor. Shields is a member of the church and the Head of Reference and Instructional Services at High Point University’s library. The sermon given the day at First Presbyterian Church before the cookout was about the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Shields said she believes it reiterates what the church hopes to achieve not only with this cookout, but also with getting to know its neighbors. “We want to be friendly to our neighbors so that if or when you have a point of need [spiritual or not spiritual], we are the people you can turn to if you need someone,” said Shields.
Because it was first time to the annual event, Johnny Austin said that he thought it was a creative way to bring people in the community closer while also allow the church to develop stronger connections to the people in downtown. Austin lives on West Sixth Street and decided to go to the cookout when he saw advertisements for it.
“It’s nice to have the opportunity to meet new people,” said Austin. “Look at us just sitting here and talking. We wouldn’t be doing that if it weren’t for this here cookout. Good people, good food, especially good hotdogs. Sounds like a perfect Sunday to me.”