By Melinda Munson
Wednesdays are for hamburger lovers. That’s the day Life Link Fellowship Church fires up their two grills and provides free burgers to the community.
The tradition started 12 years ago. Usually, the small yellow church (formerly a garage) opens its doors and yard to anyone who wants to eat and visit. In the summer, that can mean 250 people. Church members bring side dishes and desserts. Founder and pastor Ray Leggett, also Sagway’s police chief, brings his grill skills.
The event is an opportunity for seasonal workers, year-rounders, church members and non-church members to socialize.
“I don’t know that anyone has had a bad time,” Leggett said. “We’re not a stick in the mud group.”
With COVID-19 and social distancing, the burger feed had to adapt. Instead of depending on a core of steadfast volunteers, Leggett’s family does all of the work in masks and gloves. Leggett cooks the burgers with his 18-year-old son, Matthew. His wife, Cheri, delivers the brown bags of burgers and chips with their son, 15-year-old son Timothy, who drives since he got his permit.
Chezare Leipold, a burger feed regular, misses the summer time fun.
“It’s a fellowship for the community where everyone is welcome and it gives the busy summer time locals a time to slow down and enjoy a bit of the fun with their family and friends,” she said.
Although the dinners are run by a church, Leggett promised no one has to hear a sermon.
“No one is ever religiously accosted,” joked Troy Carsten who has been spending his summers in Skagway since 2006. When they’re in town, he and his wife, Cheryl, volunteer at the burger feed each week.
“We don’t feel like tourists,” said the Texan. “It’s an incredible opportunity to love people.”
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the Carstens are unsure if they’ll be able to make it to Skagway this summer.
When the burger feed first started, the Leggett family covered the costs. Now it’s predominantly funded by Life Link Church with the help of community donations.
“It’s kind of like running a restaurant,” Leggett said. When supplies for the feed don’t arrive on the barge as expected, the community steps in. One time, the dinner featured hamburger patties borrowed from The Elks Club and various restaurants. Leggett gave a nod of appreciation to Fairway Market IGA.
“They have been wonderful,” he said. “That store bent over backwards to help us.”
Leipold said there’s something for everyone at the weekly meals.
“Cheri and Ray have always gone above and beyond. They even make sure to have veggie burgers, chicken burgers and hot dogs for those that don’t do burgers … When you leave, you leave with a full belly, a happy heart and a smile on your face,” said Leipold.
“It’s all about having a good time. I miss it like crazy,” Leggett said.