Presbyterian meal program hits milestone

Published 9:15 am Saturday, April 22, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

On Wednesday, the First Presbyterian Church of Andalusia will mark its 10th anniversary of serving up hot, healthy meals to the public through its Love Thy Neighbor Lunch program.

A group of volunteers will be serving lunches at the church beginning at 11 a.m. and continuing until the meals are gone, which Roger Powell, one of the volunteers said doesn’t take very long.

“It only takes a few minutes and we typically serve about 180 meals,” Powell said.

The monthly Love They Neighbor Lunch, along with a monthly free breakfast, has been a mainstay for the Presbyterian congregation as a ministry of giving to the community.

“We’ve been doing this for 10 years and we’ve never missed a meal. We used to do it inside, but during the COVID pandemic we moved it to a drive-through format. Some people will walk up or ride their bike up to pick up their meal,” Powell said.

The lunches are served every fourth Wednesday and the breakfasts are held every second Saturday. A group of dedicated volunteers use the church’s commercial-grade kitchen to prepare hot, healthy meals. The group begin working hours ahead of time to ensure meals are ready on time. Volunteers also make sure their homebound members receive a meal.

The program began at a time when the church did not have a pastor and there is pride in the fact that it is a congregation-led mission.

“For many years there was talk about establishing a soup kitchen. Even though we were without a pastor at that time, the church members knew we wanted to do something as an outreach to the community. We felt like it was the Christian thing to do,” Powell said.

The early organizers of the free meals program reached out for advice from one of their neighbor churches — St. Mary’s Episcopal Church — who had already established their rice and beans program, which continues today.

“They have been doing their rice and beans meals longer than us and when we started reached out to them and they helped lead the way for us. We organized the timing with them to ensure the two programs would complement each other in terms of scheduling,” he said.

That cooperation is another consistent part of the program as the volunteers involved are sometimes members of other churches.

The meal program is possible through the congregation’s volunteer efforts and donations, according to Powell.

“The meals are completely free. There are no fees and no questions. The church members fund the program along with donations from local civic clubs and other organizations. We’ve made some changes over the years and have experimented with different things, but it is always a hot meal prepared on-site by our volunteers,” he said.

Powell added that the Love Thy Neighbor meals program is a labor of love for the church and volunteers.

“It means so much to our church, perhaps more than the customers who receive the meals. We feel it is a great way to serve our community and provides an opportunity for our church to develop tighter bonds and relationships. Many of our volunteers have been with us since the very beginning,” he said.

The Love Thy Neighbor Lunch program will begin passing out meals at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, April 26. Every individual receives a bag consisting of two plates and a dessert while meals last.

Rev. Tim Trent currently serves as the interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Andalusia.