Vehicles lined the street outside the Schafer Center at St. Michael’s Church on Thursday. They were waiting to receive meals for themselves, and often their friends and loved ones — all part of an ongoing collaboration by St. Michael’s and Valley Chapel Free Methodist Church.
The two churches had both offered monthly dinners before the COVID-19 pandemic. And at a time when that wasn’t possible, they decided to work together, said Sue Slocum, the outreach coordinator for Valley Chapel.
“We want to show people the love of Jesus,” she said. “When you see their smiling faces, it really does make you feel good, people even take the meals to their neighbors.”
The two churches decided to use the Schafer Center at St. Michael’s Church, since it provides a more centrally-located option for community members, along with the accessibility of a drive-thru setup.
St. Michael’s church is also more accessible for walkers and is closer to a bus stop than Valley Chapel, which is located about 2 miles south on Route 19.
The congregations worked together to make and prepare hot dogs, baked beans, homemade mac salad, and homemade cookies for the meal. There were 250 meals available from noon to 2 p.m. or until they were gone.
“It is all about equipping people to help their neighbor,” said Pastor Ryan Rovito of the Valley Chapel. “The community serving each other — we’re just serving the food.”
Rovito and many of the volunteers highlighted how pleasantly surprised they were to see their free lunches develop into a way for people to bring food to their families and neighbors that may not be able to attend themselves.
It became a way for the church to reach even more people than before and to highlight that the churches in Warsaw are all on the same team, serving the same God, Rovito said. Maggie Clark of Warsaw has been volunteering with St. Michael’s church since she returned to New York from Myrtle Beach two years ago.
“Everyone blends together and work well together here, they make you feel like family,” she said.
Clark said that everyone she meets through the meals and volunteering are great people and she always looks forward to doing it.
March was the first time since beginning the lunches that they were able to offer a sit-down option in addition to the drive-thru. Many of the volunteers hope to see more people stop by at future events to sit down and spend time with other members of the community.
A total of 10 volunteers that dedicated their time and culinary skills toward the lunch on Thursday. Many of the volunteers had participated at past events but a new volunteer, Lorie Matla from Gainesville, was running the drive-thru with a smiling face despite the rain.
Matla said that it was her first-time volunteering with the Valley Chapel since moving to the area. She enjoys having the flexibility to show up and volunteer when she can. The meals took approximately two days of preparation leading up to Thursday but all of the volunteers acknowledged how helpful it is when everyone is involved and they’re doing it for their neighbors and community.
“God put us on this earth to help people,” said Cindy Kiehl, who coordinates the St. Michael’s food pantry.
The churches will continue providing free lunches every three months and encourage people to not only get involved if they would like but to stop by and grab a meal, for themselves, their families and friends, and for their neighbors.