ICE CREAM SOCIAL …Prepping the meals for the ice cream social are, left to right, Amber Barnes, daughter of ice cream social director Phyllis Wistinghausen, Joyce Tucker, Donnie Barber and Judy Chroninger. (PHOTO BY DANIEL COOLEY, STAFF)
By: Daniel Cooley
With just nine active members, West Eagle Creek Presbyterian is one of the smallest churches in Williams County. The church is located in rural Montpelier, on the corner of County Road 6 and State Route 20.
But the annual ice cream social that the church members put together may be one of the largest money makers in Williams County. It is not only one of the longest running ice cream socials, if not the longest, in Northwest Ohio, but all of Ohio, for that matter.
“No one knows exactly what year the ice cream social got started here, I would guess it was at least when the church basement was built in 1948,” said Junior Rath, who is in his early 80’s and has been going to the church since age 16. “And they have had the ice cream social every year, at least since 1948.”
West Eagle Creek does it up right, too. Even though the only charge is donation offerings.
West Eagle Presbyterian Church has cleared three thousand dollars in each of the last two years alone. This year’s ice cream social took place on Wednesday, July 27th.
The ice cream social used to be mainly an outside sit-down event for the public. But because of COVID, the event has mainly become a drive-thru event for the public.
People are given a list of items that they can check off and then it is brought out to them. If it’s not a huge order, it is brought out to them in less than five minutes.
“Even with COVID, we have still been able to have the ice cream social every year,” said Phyllis Wistinghausen, who is in charge of the event. “We have made enough money each year to keep our small church going.”
There is not just ice cream that is sold. You can choose from five different meals: chicken and noodles, sloppy joe sandwiches, creamed chicken sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches and ham sandwiches, along with baked beans and potato salad.
Then there are nine different kinds of pies to choose from, including cherry, apple, raspberry, strawberry and even gooseberry. There are also cookies and cakes and even gluten free brownies if you so choose.
Then, don’t forget the five kinds of ice cream, all from the Homestead Ice Cream Company.It is rumored that Homestead used to hand crank all the ice cream for the social but now, for convenience, and the need to keep up with demand, the different ice cream flavors come in large tubs.
A big reason why the ice cream social can clear so much money each year is because all the food is donated.
The food is popular too, because all the meals, baked beans, potato salad, pies, cookies, brownies and cakes are all homemade.
Though the church membership is small, the ice cream social is something the whole surrounding community, along with sister church West Bethany Presbyterian (70 members), also of Montpelier, gets involved in.
It’s a big family affair, too. Most of Rath’s family, including grandchildren, are involved in the ice cream social, including herding in the traffic from the highway.
Wistinghausen also has her children and grandchildren involved in the preparation of the food. That includes one daughter, who drives in from South Carolina with her children, to participate in the ice cream social each year.
Just the making of the meals is a big event for the members, especially with the popular chicken and noodles.
“It takes six to seven hours to get the 40 pounds of chicken and noodles cooked,” Wistinghausen said.” “Also, all the pies come in around noon and we put them all in containers. This year, we didn’t have enough containers, so we put some in square containers. But it works.”
Wistinghausen was mainly responsible for making 40 pounds of potato salad.
“This church amazes me every year with what they are able to do with this ice cream social,” said Mary Beth McCandless, the pastor of West Eagle and West Bethesda Presbyterian churches.
McCandless is the pastor for both West Eagle and West Bethesda Presyterian churches. She also has a radio broadcast from one of the worship services each Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. on 96.5 FM.
McCandless stated that the two congregations are extremely giving to all kinds of needs in the Montpelier area, including to food pantries and even Montpelier Schools.
McCandless stated that statistically per capita, the two church congregations outgive 95% of the Presbyterian churches in the entire nation.
To reach McCandless with any questions about West Eagle Presbyterian, call 419-451-9983.
Dan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org