A warm morning with blue sky promised a perfect day for the annual Grandville, Mich. 4th of July parade. By 7 a.m. things began to stir around Bethel Lutheran Church as three volunteers began early preparations for the crowd that would be stopping by in the next few hours. At 7:30 a.m. another volunteer arrived to begin cooking 600 hot dogs to be given away, and other members of the church began to come in to help out in other ways.
Three tents were put up: one for veteran seating, a hot dog tent, and a doggy oasis. Special parking was set up in a roped-off area for member parking and their guests. The remaining parking was free for all parade viewers. As the cars came into the parking lot, a church volunteer handed out invites to people parking in our lot. She indicated that it was great talking to people, and her only regret was that we did not have enough cards.
By this time, the hot dog factory was cranked up: hot dogs were cooked, buns filled and wrapped. Several other volunteers were also making popcorn. This was the 12th year of the outreach, and everyone knew what needed to be done.
One of the most popular things we offer is always the doggy oasis. It had bowls, treats, and pooper scooper ready to go as needed. It was set up under one of our tents to provide some shade for the dogs. This year we also had a volunteer whose specific job was to make sure all the dogs that walked by in the parade got a treat and a drink of water.
Another big attraction was our restrooms. The only other available restrooms in the area were porta-johns. More than a couple of people were very thankful that we opened our restrooms to the public.
We ended up giving away 600 hot dogs, 496 bottles of water, and perhaps as many as 500 bags of popcorn. It was great seeing all the people looking at the Bethel labels on the bottles and on the popcorn bags. We continue to get our name known in the community.
The soldier prayer basket was another great addition. The sign on it said, “Please take a soldier home and place it somewhere that will remind you to PRAY for the men and women serving our country.” Many people commented positively on it, and many took pictures with their cameras. One thing I heard often was that, when a youngster wanted to take a soldier, many of the parents insisted that they read the sign out loud and then asked if they understood what it meant.
The 4th of July doesn’t only represent our independence as a free nation, but also our right to worship our God in our own church. We thank God for His blessing to enable us to do His work through our church, Bethel Lutheran.
Cover photo (c) Steve Debenport/iStock