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PITMAN, N.J. (CBS) — Giving thanks around a table with family and friends; it is the tradition of Thanksgiving that we hold so dear. For one pastor in South Jersey, his family’s annual tradition includes inviting new friends from the community.
For Reverend Randy Van Osten, Thanksgiving is more than just about being thankful.
“We’re inviting people over,” he said.
And that invitation extends to anyone who needs a place to celebrate Thanksgiving. That includes relatives, friends and strangers.
Randy Shciffiano and his wife, Cathy, recently joined Reverend Van Osten’s congregation at First Baptist Church of Pitman. This is their first time attending his annual Thanksgiving brunch.
“I grew up in a Baptist church, never had this before and it’s really nice,” Randy said.
“It was surprising but at the same time, getting to know him, he’s very warm and inviting and I can picture him inviting the community and into his home,” Cathy said.
Mary Case is a former Marine and originally from Missouri.
“I think it’s wonderful that he does that and he has some food for it and all, because I would’ve been home by myself,” Case said.
“Just doing what God asked of us,” Van Osten said. “It’s that love that God gives us and we want to be able to love other people.”
After about a decade of offering free Thanksgiving brunches, Reverend Van Osten wants more.
“Trying to figure out how to do that more frequently, have an open door because we need people to be more welcoming, more loving in the world so I think this is a great start,” he said.
Although the brunch formally ended at 3 p.m., the doors will remain open to ensure that those in need of food and love get it.