DARKE COUNTY — Food banks are providing food supplements to families in need around the county. Churches are filling the gap by providing community meals and soup kitchens to feed these families.
The Grace Resurrection Community Center (GRCC) soup kitchen actually got started at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 114 E. Fourth St., Greenville, with a meal being served every Wednesday.
The mission was to provide fellowship and a free, hot, nutritious meal to the homeless, jobless, working poor and needy.
Barb Greiner, Shelly Meckes and Betsy Miller were the first coordinators.
“When we first started, we served none,” Greiner said. “Then, we had three people our second week.”
She said that in 2007, there were enough churches involved to serve on Mondays and Wednesday.
In May 2010, the soup kitchen was moved to GRCC, which was formerly home of Grace Lutheran Church.
“At that time, we had enough churches to serve meals Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and by 2011 there were enough to cover Thursdays as well,” she said.
As of this date, there are 21 churches involved in serving the meals at GRCC.
In 2015, there were 11,709 meals served.
“We serve all ages from seniors to families with young children,” Greiner reported.
She and Meckes continue to be coordinators today with the help of Barbara Schenck. They are there each day to check on supplies.
Each church plans its own menu and provides the food when its their turn, while GRCC provides drinks and tableware.
“When we decided to construct an addition to our church in February 2002, one of the goals was to open it up to the community,” said Lisa Gasper, who oversees the free Community Fellowship Meals at Ansonia United Methodist Church. “We decided to start out with a Free Community Fellowship meal every Wednesday in our new addition, which is a multi-purpose room with a wonderful kitchen. With this vision we started our free Wednesday night meals September 2004. Through the years many individuals and organizations have donated to help with the expenses. Grants were also applied for and some were approved; however, when you’re feeding people for free, funds are used quickly. Because of our careful spending, ordering of supplies/food and individual monetary donations along with organizational donations we have been able to continue with our meals.”
In September 2004, the Ansonia church served 85 people and then by October it jumped to 140 people served.
“At the very beginning, we were blessed to serve approximately 150 people each Wednesday night, September through May, and serving a meal once a month through the summer,” she said. “As the years have passed, there have been changes in the number of people served, but the enthusiasm has not changed. We currently average 85 to 90 meals served, with approximately 10 being delivered to those who are physically unable to travel to the church.”
Starting 2015, the Ansonia meals are served twice a month, on the first and third Wednesday, starting at 5:30 p.m. and serving until 6:30 pm.
“The menu varies, but the food is always good and the fellowship, fun and forming of relationships continues to grow with each meal served,” Gasper said.
Trinity Lutheran Church in Versailles has been feeding the community since Jan. 10, 2007, and does it every Wednesday 5 to 6:30 p.m., weather permitting.
Karen Schultz, coordinator since its inception, said the meals are open to the public for the hungry and for fellowship for the lonely.
“A lot of singles come in,” she said.
According to her, at one time almost 300 people came to the meals.
“Now we’re averaging 125,” she said.
Food that is served, she said, comes from donations from different companies, including Gordon Foods
The church served 6,745 people in 2015.
“We also do home deliveries to seniors and the disabled,” she said. “Tonight, we delivered 37. Each team that cooks picks the menu.”
Schultz said the weekly meals have now become a community effort. St.Denis Catholic Church has jumped on board with Trinity to host two of the monthly meals.And, other teams have also become involved, including Midmark, which hosts it six times a year.
“All we ask for is a free-will donation,” Schultz said. “We have run out of food before, bit it is what it is. Ninety percent of the time we don’t run out though.”
She said the volunteers serve the people.
“It s getting harder to get teams to cook,” she said. “We have high school kids help serve. The Girls Scouts help with the drinks.”
Schultz said Sandy Noggle, the church treasurer, helps her out. Pastor of the church is Bob Akins.
Pastor Rick Cavanaugh said a soup kitchen at Trinity Wesleyan Church on East Main in Greenville, is served there every third Saturday of the month from noon to 1 p.m., with doors opening at 11:30 a.m.
“It was our desire to give back to the community and help people in need,” he said. “We knew some meals and soup kitchens were operating through the week and we wanted to extend that to Saturdays. “Meals are made at the church. The menu changes; we do food donations and people give us food from their gardens.”
Laura Turner said she has been coordinator of the Trinity Wesleyan soup kitchen since it started
“We started off with 30 to 40 but it’s dropped off significantly,” she said. “Now, we have a steady 15. We get steady ones and we still see some new faces.”
She did say that the church is going to start a van pickup this month to allow more people to get to the soup kitchen.
“There will be two pickup points in two of their vans; one at Greenville South Park Shelter and the other at the vacant store beside Goodwill, which used to be Odd Lots. Both pickups will be at 11:45 a.m. Saturdays and the passengers will be returned to the pickup points at 1 p.m.”
She is hoping the transportation service will get more people to their soup kitchen each third Saturday of the month.
Helping Turner out is a kitchen crew, a setup crew and volunteers who eat and visit with the diners.
“I plan the meals and do the cooking,” Turner said. “I also do extreme couponing.”