DARKE COUNTY - In recent years, church members have stepped up and have begun offering meals to those in their respective communities.
At least three churches - Ansonia United Methodist, Trinity Lutheran in Versailles and the EUM Church in Union City, Ohio - host meals on Wednesdays.
Carolyn Newbauer, in charge of the community meals in Ansonia, said that program started there, she believes in 2006.
“Our pastor at the time felt like since we had built The Gathering Place that we needed to open it up to the community. So we decided to have Wednesday night meals with the kids program,” Newbauer said. “It is open to anybody.”
She said it is usually in August when the teams meet and go over menus.
A lot of times we change it [the menu] on and off,” she said. “We’re staying with pasta this year. The last meal of the month is soup, and the kind is left up to the discretion of the cook.”
According to her, the third meal of the month is the standard beef and noodles
The church’s food supply is maintaining right now, according to Newbauer.
“We checked the food supply not too long ago,” she said. “We quit the meals in mid-April.”
At one time, the church was offering carry-outs, but have ceased those so they can plan their meals better to conserve on food items.
Meals are served from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
“At 6:15, if there is food left over, we announce the kitchen is open for seconds,” she said.
Volunteer Methodist Church members comprise most of the help during this time.
“Anybody is welcome to come in and help us,” Newbauer said. “We have some school kids help…a racing team of adults and kids, a 4-H group, just an assortment. We welcome any group. Boy Scouts help the second Wednesday.
Newbauer estimates the average attendance each meal is 90.
The food is free; however, donations will be accepted.
The community meals, all held at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Versailles, had their beginnings on Jan. 10, 2007, and it has been successful, reports organizer Karen Schultz.
“We average 225 meals a week,” she said. “Also helping us are other churches in town and organizations…a variety of people. Trinity is in charge the fourth Wednesday; St. Denis/Holy Family parishes on the third Wednesday; Versailles Council of Churches on the fifth Wednesday; and such organizations and businesses as Rotary and Midmark, on the first and second weeks.”
Each of the teams, she said, is responsible to get their own food and set up a menu for their particular week.
“We buy paper products,” said Schultz, who sends out a weekly menu at trinityofversailles.com [under ‘outreach’]. “We receive food donations from trucking companies. A lot of groups donate their own desserts usually. We get lots of donations.”
The weekly meal is open to everyone, said Schultz, who indicated she was the one of those who started this outreach program by bringing up the idea to church officials.
“They talked about it for several months,” she said. “We got ideas talking to others. I didn’t want a soup kitchen, just to feed everybody.
She believes most of the people who are eating are in it for socialization.
People can eat in or carry-out.
The meals are free, but like in Ansonia, free-will donations are accepted but not necessary.
Serving times are from 5 to 6:30 p.m. For those unable to drive to the Lutheran Church or home-bound, call the church office by noon on the day of the meal, give name, phone number and address and meal(s) can be delivered.
Lunches are served at the EUM Church on Franklin Street in Union City each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
This program started in June 2006, according to Chad Wade, who helped find the place to have these community meals upon the request of Dave Smith.
“Dave started it,” Wade said.
Smith contacted Wade after his church, Union City Church of the Brethren, decided to start serving Wednesday lunches. They were in need of a place to hold and prepare these meals.
“When I received the letter about the meal ministry,” Wade said, “I got to thinking that our church, EUM, is handicap-accessible and has restrooms. I talked to some of our ladies about using the new kitchen to prepare meals for the community on Wednesdays. They said okay. That evening, I asked our trustees the same question and received another okay. Our administrative board met the next hour, and I asked them the same question…another okay. I got three okays the same day; that’s unusual.”
So, that’s how EUM became part of the community meals ministries, with the other three churches - Smith’s church, the Bartonia United Methodist and Community United Methodist.
“That first Wednesday in June 2006, we served 26 persons, and on June 22, there were 60 persons who ate,” Wade said. “Six times in 2010, we fed 400, with 460 being the high.”
He went on to report, the ministry served 12,763 meals in 2010; 19,032 in 2011; and 19,167 meals in 2012.
It closed a couple of times because of snow days or holidays.
“We never have one the week of our ice cream social during Stateline Heritage Days, but last year, six or seven of us went to the Brethren Church, sat on the steps and handed out for 250-plus meals,” Wade said.
The churches don’t charge for these meals, but, like the other churches, receive donations.
What’s on the menu?
“It depends on who ever is making it and it depends on what you got,” he said.”There have been a couple times there was shortage of food, but we were always sure to have enough. The hard part is knowing how much food to prepare. The Lord has guided us well. To my knowledge, we’ve never turned anyone away without a lunch. A couple of times we had to take something from the freezer and put it in the microwave.”
He went on, “We had 387 carry-outs last week. An average of 80 people come here and once in awhile we get 100. Last week, we had 60-some inside.”
Wade has been off a few weeks after having fallen, and Smith has been unable to work for health reasons, but the meals are continuing. Wade’s daughter, Roxanne St. Myers, has been taking over for father during his recuperation.
Wade said he would like to see another church get involved.
“It would be nice if churches from other towns would come in and look the situation over,” he said. “Portland has to move from church to church for its meals.”
He did note that other churches in Union City are supportive, including Grace Brethren, the Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church.
“A group of 4-H kids come in a couple of times to help us, and McDonald’s sent their people in to help once, and they brought in cold drinks,” Wade concluded.
Faith United Methodist Church in Arcanum has provided this program in the past, but did not start it up this year.
“We’ll do it next year probably,” said a spokesperson.
Grace Resurrection Community Center at 433 E. Water St. in Greenville offers a soup kitchen every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to noon free of charge to homeless, jobless, the working poor and the needy.