We asked Perry residents what they were thankful for this holiday season and what they were most looking forward to for Thanksgiving. As expected, many people talked about visiting family and the special food and traditions that make this time of year so memorable.
We also learned how Perry as a community, not just individual residents, has so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Here is a sample of some from the Perry residents we talked to.
Pastor Mabel Nieto of Fuente De Vida (Fountain of Life) Assembly of God says her greatest blessings this year have come from her congregation. First, she considers it a personal blessing to witness the good things happening to the families in her church.
“Every family has received blessings in different areas,” Pastor Nieto says. “Their jobs, their homes, their families — and to see them succeed in whatever they do — I consider that a blessing.”
Her second blessing came earlier this year after an old knee injury slowed her down and kept her from some of her duties. It was during that time when she was encouraged by how her congregation came together to help her. As the weeks went by, and after much prayer, her knee began to heal.
“It was a blessing for me to see how the church was so united in working and just helping me in the ministry just to make my load easier,” Pastor Nieto says. “Everybody did their job — whatever they had to do and more.”
Nieto is also proud of how her congregation has given back to those less fortunate through mission programs, including Fountain of Blessing, a special fund and food pantry designed to help people in need.
But her greatest blessing during her 16 years as pastor has been to see how her congregation has changed. Early on in her ministry, she was troubled by how many families would move to Perry only to leave a few months later to look for a better job. Very few families felt financially secure enough to buy homes and put down permanent roots. She prayed the members of her congregation would find good jobs that would give them the financial security they needed.
“As the years went, by little by little, everybody started getting their homes,” Pastor Nieto says.
Now the majority of the families in her congregation have purchased their own homes and see Perry as a place to grow and thrive.
Family was on the top of Cathy Kurtinitis’ list when we caught up with her at “Stitches in Time” antique mall. Kurtinitis has two new granddaughters to be proud of this year.
“I’ve got a girl down in Florida and a girl up here due in January,” Kurtinitis says. “She’s still a new grandchild to me.”
Kurtinitis’ favorite Thanksgiving memories also center around family. She says one Kurtinitis tradition is to take a picture of the family meal with everyone gathered around the table.
“Those pictures come to mind when I think of Thanksgiving,” Kurtinitis says. “We put all the meal out right before we say our prayer and thank God for our food. Just the warmth and the smells and the family all around.”
Another Kurtinitis family tradition is to remember what the first Thanksgiving was like for the pilgrims and the hardships they suffered. No Thanksgiving is complete without reading excerpts from the diary of William Bradford, one of the original pilgrims and leader of Plymouth Colony.
“I think that as this country seems to be going through hard times that we can look back to the original Thanksgiving and see how they not only were thankful to God, but they established it for this country,” Kurtinitis says. “We always try to read the story every Thanksgiving, and it makes a huge difference.”
Jenny Eklund, Perry City Council member at large and owner of Perry Paint and Design, says there are many things to be thankful for in Perry this year.
“We went through that period where everybody thought we were going to be a ghost town,” Eklund says. “It is so far from it, and right now I am really feeling the effects and the work we’ve put in to it to make Perry become something.”
Eklund has been hard at work preparing for the upcoming Art on the Prairie, a celebration of art, music and poetry on Nov. 9 – 10. The goal of the event is to help create an art and cultural district within Perry to help strengthen and enrich the community.
Eklund is also especially grateful for the new owners of the Hotel Pattee, Jay and Denise Hartz, whom she says have already reached out to other members of the downtown business community.
“The fact that we have some owners that are really going to be a part of our community and the fact that so many community members that invested in it — that is something worth being thankful for,” Eklund says.