Churches feeding more than the soul

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Jeanne Ebaugh handed a tray with chili and crackers to a member of the community Monday at the Salvation Army. (Photos by Aaron Eisenhauer)

The end of the month can mean the beginning of rough times for many people who live on a tight budget or receive government aid at the beginning of the month.

By the last week, the budget is usually stretched thin and the food stamps have run out.

It is with that in mind that the Salvation Army provides a hot dinner Monday through Friday the last week of every month. St. Vincent de Paul Church offers a meal the last Saturday of the month and Christ Episcopal Church on Themis and Fountain streets recently started serving breakfast the third Saturday of the month.

"We know that toward the end of the month people who live on fixed incomes or food stamps are running out of resources," said the Rev. Bob Towner with Christ Episcopal.

He said the church wanted to help, but didn't want to conflict with the other programs.

Angela Moritz, a student and part-time employee at Southeast Missouri State University, ate soup provided by the Salvation Army on Monday at the Salvation Army center. "It's really good that they do this," she said.

"We thought we would fill in on the third Saturday," he said.

September was the inaugural run of the Red Door Breakfast. Parish volunteers served a hot breakfast to about 40 people the first day. Towner said they are targeting the need in the four block radius of the church, but anyone is welcome. It is one day when people can come to the church for a meal and not have to worry about cooking.

"I don't know what they do the other 29 days," said Charles Balsamo, a volunteer at the first breakfast. "Probably scratch it out the best they can."

Jerry Wilson lives in the neighborhood and came to the first Red Door Breakfast on Sept. 15. He comes to several church functions and meetings and said the church really "helps with some of our basic needs."

"I think once the word is out they spread it by word-of-mouth," said Major Beth Stillwell at the Monday night dinner served by the Salvation Army.

Volunteers served hot chili and various pies and cakes to almost 200 people, many of whom live downtown or in the Red Star district. Stillwell said by the end of the week, they see as many as 500 people show up for dinner.

"There's quite a bit of a need for it," said Tania Burnett, a volunteer with the Salvation Army.

Stillwell said individual needs vary and can creep up for someone living on a fixed income. Gas prices, utilities or medical bills can unexpectedly need to be factored in to a budget.

"And it is tough," she said. "We provide a hot meal the whole week to stretch their budget."

The Salvation Army has been providing the last week meal for around 20 years, according to some of the volunteers.

"It's a very good thing that they do," Brenda Rutherford said. "For a lot of people who don't have food stamps just yet, it's a good thing."

Rutherford said she normally cooks, but doesn't have access to a kitchen right now. She called her living situation complicated and said she is looking for a new apartment.

St. Vincent's Church serves a dinner the fourth Saturday of every month to help with hardship situations.

"I think that we realize partly at the end of the month folks don't really have as much money," said Sister Theresa Davey with St. Vincent de Paul Church. "Also, because of where they live, they might not have the opportunity to have a home-cooked meal," she said. "The purpose is to provide that and also for us to get to know people in the community."

She said government agencies try, but churches should also help in the community because they can.

"Often, blessings are meant to be shared," she said. St. Vincent's Vittles serves members of the parish, people on Social Security or people with disabilities and that they are all welcome.

"Each person has value. They have value because they are, not just based on their productivity or education or wealth," she said.

335-6611, extension 246

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