New Castle News

October 20, 2012

‘It Was Time’: After 25 years, Wehr hands over Thanksgiving meal to First Presbyterian

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Anne Cochran is expecting a few more people than usual this Thanksgiving.

About 700 more.

The director of First Presbyterian Church’s Glory Grille — a twice-monthly free lunch served to anyone who shows up — is taking her game to the next level. Next month, she’ll be overseeing — and the church will be hosting — an annual community Thanksgiving Day dinner that for the past 25 years has been dished out at St. Joseph the Worker Church.

During the past quarter-century, the meal has been organized and executed by Dale “Butch” Wehr and a host of volunteers.

“It was just time,” Wehr said of his decision to hang up his apron.

Approached by a friend who has helped both with Wehr’s dinner and the Glory Grille, Cochran pondered the suggestion that she and First Presbyterian pick up where Wehr was leaving off.

“First, I prayed,” Cochran said. “It just seemed beyond going from between 75 and 100 on Saturday mornings to 700 or 800 in one day.

“But when I started praying about it, what was on my heart was, ‘How could I cook a turkey at home knowing there were 800 people (Wehr) had served in the past that might not have a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day? I guess that was the convincing factor to me.”


Anne also received conviction from a sermon by First Presbyterian Pastor Nathan Loudon, who told a tale by author Max Lucado about a man who stood at the bottom of a mountain and looked up to see God at the top.

“He knew that what he had wasn’t enough to get where he wanted to go,” Loudon explained of the illustration. “He needed assistance to get where he needed to go.”

“That,” Cochran said, “was telling me that I can’t do this, but that I could try to find help because God is up there.”

And indeed, help already is on the way.

Wehr is encouraging his volunteers to sign on with Cochran, and the New Castle Area Transit Authority will be providing transportation from public housing facilities to First Presbyterian, Cochran noted, just as it did for the St. Joseph meals.

In addition, at least 10 people who received meals at the most recent Glory Grille have told Cochran that they will show up to help with Thanksgiving dinner.

But Cochran’s biggest encouragement comes from Tammy Cochran and the Youth Development Center, which provided Wehr with volunteers from among its staff and residents to prepare turkeys, bus tables and wash dishes.

Cochran, by the way, was the mutual friend that proposed taking over the dinner to Cochran.

“YDC is going to be our big help,” Cochran said. “Tammy has worked with Butch and with the Glory Grille, so I know I can count on her. We wouldn’t be able to do it without Tammy being involved.”


Loudon believes that it’s not only the existing tie between Cochran and Caruso that recommends First Presbyterian’s taking over the dinner, but also the church’s relationship with the downtown.

“First Presbyterian is trying to do church differently, and this is part of how we’re trying to do it,” he said. “We’re trying to focus, not on how many people come to our church services, but on how many people our church is serving. Our doors have always been open to all persons who want or need.”

Loudon noted that First Presbyterian will be welcoming five new members into its fold this week. While two live in outlying townships, two others call the City Rescue Mission home and the fifth stays in Tent City.

“We’re interacting with a broader base because we’re willing to, and we’re encouraging one other to do that,” Loudon said. “The Scripture I found that connects to it well is John 14:12. Jesus says, ‘Truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do.’

“This fits right in there.”