After learning that some Western Wayne students were hoarding food at school to take home, volunteers are coming together to provide free hot meals one night per week on the county’s west side.
Some members of Resurrected Church on U.S. 40 in Pershing, and residents who might or might not be involved with other local faith communities are starting a program called Feeding Western Wayne. The effort will provide meals each Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to all ages.
Meal distribution sites will rotate weekly between Cambridge City, Dublin, Milton and Pershing to make the meals as accessible as possible to all western Wayne residents.
Organizers plan for each community to be served at least once a month as the program begins.
The Jan. 24 meal is at Resurrected Church, 503 Main St. (U.S. 40) in Pershing, and the Jan. 31 meal is at The Old Tin Roof antique shop at 114 W. Main St. (U.S. 40) in Cambridge City.
Some of the initial pick-up sites include antique and music shops, a fire station and a church.
The January meals have included beef and noodles, mashed potatoes, a roll and water. Prepared meals will be prepackaged in carry-out containers and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Limited delivery will be offered for those who can’t get to a meal site.
Fifty meals will be prepared each week, and once organizers collect data about program usage, they might alter that number.
Scott Powell, who oversees Resurrected Church, began brainstorming last year how to help local hungry residents after hearing Lincoln Middle/High School Principal Renee Lakes describe some local students’ needs to a group of local pastors at their monthly meeting.
He said Lakes opened his eyes to what some young people face, who can’t help what environments they’re in. Powell said he knows the program won’t solve all of the area’s hunger issues, but he believes in working to reduce them.
“Everyone wants to be part of something,” Powell said, noting churches should be part of an effort to re-energize the community.
Resurrected Church itself is bringing life back to a building on U.S. 40 and South Germantown Road at the town’s lone stoplight. The church opened in September 2017, and Powell is eager to help those in need.
Powell began seeking community partners for the program after discussing the idea with members of his congregation and receiving support. He’s been visiting local town councils to present Feeding Western Wayne to them, with a goal of raising awareness through word of mouth. Flyers are being sent home with local students.
The group is partnering with the Western Wayne Food Pantry in Cambridge City Christian Church to put flyers about the meal service in pantrygoers’ bags. Powell said he’s glad the twice-monthly pantry and the Gleaners’ bags sent home with Western Wayne students are available, and he just wants to supplement what’s already being done.
Powell has been meeting with local residents individually and in small groups as needed to describe the new project. He became acquainted with an individual who has committed to initially providing protein items for the meals.
However, help is being sought from local residents, businesses and other churches to contribute money or items such as delivery fuel, location-specific utilities, side dishes, drinking water and other beverages, tableware packets, food packaging containers, individual condiment packages and bags. Donors can give a one-time donation, or make a monthly financial pledge.
Volunteers are also needed to help cook the meals on Wednesday evenings or distribute them on Thursdays. Powell said one of the team members is ServSafe certified, so the group will be following food handling guidelines for safety.
The group will use its Facebook page, called Feeding Western Wayne, to share information about needs for each month’s menu, such as noodles. Those interested in following the discussion may send a request to join the group, and then can respond when they see an item they’d like to provide.
Powell said volunteers are also seeking grant applications to help make the program sustainable in the long run, and ideas are welcome.
If the program is going to continue through the year and beyond, a broad group of local residents will need to get involved, Powell said.
“I can’t stress enough, if we want to see this program be sustainable in western Wayne, it will take people sharing their time, talent and treasures,” Powell said.
The Old Tin Roof antique shop at 114 W. Main St. in Cambridge City was the first meal distribution site.
“We approached the organizers and offered them the use of our store because feeding those in our community who are without a hot meal is all of our responsibility,” said Nick Elder, who owns the store with wife Tonya. “We have to approach the rampant food insecurity issues as a community head-on. Tonya and I are happy to play our small role.”
Powell’s dream would be to provide a 24-hour hot meal service for those struggling to get by, but he wants to make sure a smaller effort can continue first.
Powell said he knows a lot of people don’t feel comfortable in a church setting for various reasons, so Feeding Western Wayne went about finding a variety of distribution sites. Even when meals are given away at a church, Powell emphasizes that it will be a welcoming environment and visitors won’t be bombarded with discussions of religion.
Powell became interested in ministry as an adult. He moved to Cambridge City at age 16, and went to college for 4 ½ years after retiring from the Marine Corps.
He worked at Honda in Greensburg for six years and has been doing consulting. He’s transitioning to a management role in environmental health at TS Tech in New Castle. He has to work full-time to support his family. He’s been involved with some aspect of ministry for about 10 years, but this is his first role as a lead pastor.
Powell wants to reduce a variety of barriers preventing someone to get to a meal site.
Anyone with special needs requests, such as an advance delivery request, or those interested in giving time, items or money to the Feeding Western Wayne program should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (765) 541-2814.
– By Millicent Martin Emery