Church offers community free dinner

Posted 3/11/09

Jake Hughes smiled and thanked the volunteers as he got a second sandwich at the March 7 community dinner at the Immanuel Lutheran Church. “Like so …

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Church offers community free dinner


Jake Hughes smiled and thanked the volunteers as he got a second sandwich at the March 7 community dinner at the Immanuel Lutheran Church.

“Like so many others in this economy, I am out of work right now and this meal is a huge help to me,” he said. “It’s nice to live in a country where, if you hit a stretch of bad luck, people like these are ready to give you a helping hand.”

Hughes was one of about a dozen people who accepted the open invitation to Immanuel Lutheran Church’s March 7 community dinner.

Tables were set up and the kitchen was open to all comers at the church at 3695 S. Acoma St. where Rick Ryder, senior elder of the church, headed the group of several volunteers who served food to anyone who dropped by.

Hughes said the dinner was a blessing and greatly appreciated.

“I work construction and I’m a cook but I’ve been out of work for a while now,” he said. “I start a new job next week but right now, times are a little tough. I can’t begin to express my appreciation for this meal because this is the first time I have had something to eat in more than a day and a half.”

For a little more than a year, Immanuel Church volunteers have served up the community dinner on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

Ryder said the program started because the church wanted to have a more personal outreach to members of the community.

“Generally, we have 20-30 people join us for our free community dinner,” he said. “There are people from the community, neighbors and quite a few people like Jake who come in because someone told them about what we do.”

The church elder said the program is self-sustaining since much of the food for the project is donated. For example, he said each Friday, volunteers collect donations from the Panera Breads store at Southwest Plaza.

The volunteers bag the breads and put them out on Sunday for members of the congregation to take, free of charge. However, many congregation members put donations in the jar and the money goes to buy supplies for the community dinners.

Frequently, dinner will be spaghetti or soup. The menu offered March 7 was sandwiches, potato salad and all the trimmings.

Ryder explained all the food for that night’s dinner was donated by a wedding party at the church. Following the reception, the families donated trays of smoked meats, bowls of potato salad and a large container of cake to the community dinner project.

Area resident Richard Paulie regularly comes to the community dinners at the church.

He said he found out about the project from a neighbor, dropped by on a Saturday and has been coming ever since.

Paulie said he lives on a fixed income and appreciated the opportunity to enjoy the free dinner.

“I live by myself and I like to come to these dinners,” he said. “The food is always good but I really like the chance to sit and talk to people. It is nice for the church to hold these dinners. I appreciate it and I think it is a great service to our community.”


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