Members of the working committeee of the Pittsville Community Meal, along with their minister, prepare food at Pittsville United Church of Christ. Pictured are LaVerne Wolf, from left, Deb Wolf, Judy Papke, Georgia Winters and pastor Wanda Veldman.
The sign in the parking lot of the Pittsville United Church of Christ stated, "Community Meal - Come and Join Us."
Passersby have seen the same invitation posted on the marquee every month for about the past three years with the exception of the busy month of December.
This community event grew out of a challenge statement issued by a previous pastor when she asked the church group, "What can we do to reach out to our community in ways other than church services and youth religious education?"
A core group of ladies, namely Georgia Winters, Deb Wolf and Judy Papke, were instrumental in conceiving the idea of providing a Saturday evening meal once a month to anyone in the community, no matter their financial or religious status.
These ladies, numerous other volunteers and donors have provided and prepared the menu for each public meal date. Baum's Mercantile continues to support the monthly event by providing discounts or direct donations of food. Other volunteers, some not even members of the church, come forward to help wherever needed.
Youth volunteers also get involved. Ashley and Kayla Larson assist their grandpa Walt Wolf with dishwashing chores.
Winters, spokeswoman for the founding group said, "It's such a pleasure working with volunteers who find their niche to pitch in to help others. I have made new friends and have felt very touched by the many people that have come to the meals. We even provide carry-outs for those who make arrangements to have meals picked up.
"Even though it is held in our church and is an extension of the church reaching out to the community, people of all denominations, or none at all, are welcome. We are not here to preach to anyone," Winters said.
The community has responded. She said, "The first public meal was attended by approximately 35, another occasion served 130, and we generally average around 100 being served. We are very pleased with the response we have received."
The committee has found that those who donate toward the meal have provided sufficient funds to enable more than enough to cover the next meal and on occasion generate enough to make sizable donations to the local food pantry.
"If you are hungry, sick of cooking or just need the company of friends and a nice meal, please come and join us," Winters said. "It's not a fundraiser, it's a friend or FUNraiser."
Marv Kohlbeck of Pittsville is a correspondent for News-Herald Media.