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The Rev. Anne Warrington Wilson tells how Grace Church’s feeding ministry is evolving to meet community needs during the pandemic:
Grace Church’s feeding ministry began in August of 2006 because two people, the Senior Warden and the Pastor of a congregation renting space from Grace, raised the idea for conversation in the same week. It seemed like a God idea so the two congregations moved forward with it. Each congregation provided dinner one Wednesday per month. Dinner in the Great Hall was open to anyone who showed up. No id needed, no financial or geographical limitations. Free food and fellowship for all. Some parishioners designate part of their pledge to fund the dinner.
Over the years there have been many groups that have volunteered to provide, cook and serve the meal and it has expanded to every Wednesday of the month. Some of the cooks have also provided clothing and other services. One passed out flyers on the bus line to invite more people and brought in praise dancers for a spiritual experience. Diners have offered to become cooks—that’s how we got to know Miss Pat and her friend Miss Barb who live near the church.
Diners and cooks alike have been attracted to the Grace community and volunteered time, ideas and funds to expand our program offerings and outreach to the neighborhood of College Hill and beyond.
In March we closed down the building; many of the cooks were older or had vulnerable family members and were not comfortable coming to work in the kitchen but we knew folks still needed to eat even if they could not sit together in the Great Hall.
We decided to move the Wednesday dinner to carry out meals and blessedly there were enough volunteers to cook and package dinners. Due to job loss and other economic hardships stemming from the pandemic our clientele has grown so we are serving anywhere from 80 to 200 meals on Wednesdays. Sometimes we run out of food within the first half hour we’re open so it’s a scramble to heat up and assemble dinner for more folks.
By God’s grace, partnerships we had before this crisis have supplied us with soup and a variety of canned goods, bakery items and fresh produce which we can offer to our diners in addition to the meal we have prepared.
As our diner group expands, we are hearing more stories of hardship and need, such as people living in their cars due to evictions and the need to feed kids more meals since the schools are closed.
All in all this is an upbeat ministry; from the community that prepares it to the group of people who come by for food and fellowship. The Greater Grace Community is expanding and it is good. Please come by for dinner every Wednesday from 5 to 7.
Submitted by Rev. Anne Warrington Wilson, September 2020