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For years, a church's 'Hot Dog Tuesday' has been where Greensboro meats and greets

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GREENSBORO — The lunch crowd passes all the big fast-food restaurants to get here.

"Somebody told my wife, who told me," Rob Bradley said shortly before meeting up with friends.

Welcome to "Hot Dog Tuesday" at Hinshaw United Methodist Church. On Tuesdays, think of the church like a culinary "Cheers" — a place where everybody knows your name.

And usually your order.

Look around. This isn't a typical kitchen. The group of volunteers includes three all-important "hot dog dressers," a retired UNCG chef and grill master who applies a secret sauce to every hot dog and — you can't forget these guys — the baggers, who double-check every order before it leaves the kitchen.

Closing time is 1:30 p.m. Already, no less than 300 people have placed orders this day as the clock inches closer to quitting time — some carrying out boxes of hot dogs.

Try the $6 special, which comes with two hot dogs, chips and a drink.

"Everybody eats — that's so important to me," Pastor Susan Hoyle said. "That's Jesus to me."

The congregation started Hot Dog Tuesday nine years ago — the idea of Jim Waynick, the program minister.

"We had just remodeled the kitchen and wanted to do something fun," Waynick recalled. 

Little did they realize what would be set into motion.

Around here, "Embrace the Health Department" is akin to that Fifth Commandment of honoring your mother and father.

The "A" sanitary rating on the wall is for a "100" score.

The congregation isn't the only one locally with a food ministry of some sort. But they're one of the oldest still going.

While the kitchen is in constant motion so, too, are the comings and goings in the fellowship hall. Some eat under the trees out back. Or in their cars. Or wait on the porch for their orders.

There are those who come for the hot dogs with the coleslaw and chili always made the same day.

And then are the people here for something not on the menu: fellowship.

Waynick looks around the room and knows that life's circumstances also draw people here to the big tables, where strangers might sit next to each other and end up chatting through a meal.

"There are a lot of people who are lonely," Waynick said. "Some have been sick. Some lost a spouse, and they come just for the joy of being in that room."

Lots of smiles and laughter permeate the room. Sometimes people join in the fun. Sometimes they quietly take it in. 

With 23 volunteers, there is a rhythm to how everything is done. A volunteer keeps up with the receipts. Another answers the telephone. And so on.

True story: The Hinshaw United crew has needed to fix 60 hotdogs at a moment's notice for company orders.

Also true: They love doing it.

"What would we do without y'all," a woman says before leaving with a bagged order.

She's been coming for years, one of the volunteers said.

The menu hasn't changed. The church only uses beef dogs or ones made from turkey. Sales pay for the next week's food delivery, although a run to a nearby grocery store for buns or more beef hot dogs has been necessary when people keep coming.

"I even tried it with chili," a volunteer laughs about partaking in the turkey hot dogs, which are nearly selling out this day. "I'll stick to beef."

Runners nearby are packing up the food and are known for delivering orders with a smile and a "How are you doing today?" 

Hinshaw UMC isn't trying to be a full-scale restaurant. That's why it feels right when someone's family comes with a birthday cake and shares it with others in the room. Or someone performs music. 

"I believe strongly that Jesus taught us not to be judgmental rock throwers," Waynick said. "My experience has been that churches that don't have a lot to do tend to be a rock-throwing church. We stay busy and we don't throw rocks."

Contact Nancy McLaughlin at 336-373-7049 and follow @nmclaughlinNR on Twitter.

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