A friendly group of people assembled at the Homer United Methodist Church Thursday evening to share a meal and a conversation. Any drivers who pass by the sandwich board sign posted before the church the third Thursday of each month might be curious to know more about such dinners. Certainly, it is a unique habit – month after month, reaching out to anyone in the community to come inside and eat and visit. Don’t bring money, don’t bring a dish. Just bring yourself.
Last Thursday, the sun streamed in through tall windows in the atrium, landing light on yellow-clothed tables lined up to seat diners. The USDA-certified kitchen was all shiny newness, crock pots and stove pots steaming with chili. Cornbread, salad, corn chips, fruit and several kinds of deserts were to be served by a trio of volunteers on a table outside the kitchen.
Sharing food like this with the community was the reason why church members pursued the idea of gaining a DEC approved kitchen. That’s no easy achievement. But the result means the church can open its doors and serve the public.
What used to be the kitchen, said Karen Martindell on a tour, is a storeroom walk-in freezer used by the Homer Food Pantry. The kitchen now is many times larger, featuring space for several chefs at work without bumping into one another.
The food is purchased by a sign-up method. Members of the congregation sign up to purchase, say, four cans of beans. Someone else offers to supply hamburger. Another one brings ingredients for cornbread – and so it goes.
Usually, Dave and Ruby Nofziger volunteer to do the cooking, but they’re out of town this week. Martindell stepped in. The idea is keep the meals simple: soups and breads, occasionally spaghetti.
Then a sign is placed out before the church with the hope that passers by will notice and feel welcome to come inside. Anyone in the community can come. Mostly, church members attend these once a month dinners, but others are catching on. They sometimes feed 70-80 people a night. Leftovers – if there are any – go to the Meals on Wheels program.
As originally conceived, the idea was to use their unique kitchen to share with other churches when they can, for their events, and to have their members feel welcome. The idea also is outreach for those who may be hungry during this harsh winter.
Homer churches are doing some impressive works. Readers will see a project by Glacierview Baptist Church written about on these pages. We’ve also heard about other altruistic endeavors by groups, as Jerry Vantrease pointed out. Shank Electric has initiated a business venture on the Amazon River to help villagers there have a viable income.
The owners of Dutch Boy landscaping recently sold their business and moved to the Philippines to help the villagers there develop sustainable agriculture. A year ago the Napier family moved to Uganda to help with the horrendous situation there, teams from Church on the Rock and Christian Community Church have travelled to South America to help with crisis housing needs. Many also volunteer for Habitat for Humanity in Homer as they built houses here, as well as pitching in with the usual good-neighbor local causes.
All this provides yet another reason to feel pride in Homer and gratitude for an eclectic community.
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