In Scripture, Jesus admonished his disciple Peter to "feed my sheep," and the churches of Cape Girardeau are taking that commandment to heart.
For 30 years, congregations in the city in partnership with Southeast Missouri Hospital Auxiliary and the Cape Girardeau County Area Medical Society Alliance have been making sure that the elderly and ill receive a hot, nutritious meal each weekday.
Anyone can benefit from Meals on Wheels though the program does require a medical referral. Most of the recipients are elderly and have few visitors.
Delivering the meals gives some satisfaction in knowing that you've helped another person, said Dale Kester, who delivered this week with his wife, Nancy.
"It gives them somebody to visit with," said Maurice Lange, a volunteer from Trinity Lutheran Church.
The partnership was honored Tuesday evening with a celebration banquet marking Meals on Wheels' 30th anniversary. More than 250 people -- all of them regular volunteers -- attended. They shared stories and recalled past visits.
Tom Macke, who coordinates the program for Trinity Lutheran Church, recalled how volunteers have provided recipients with more than just a hot meal. He remembered regular visits to a blind man who received the daily meals. Macke's volunteer partner Stan Popp "would go over and blow the leaves" off the sidewalk because the homeowner could not. "I don't think that man ever knew Stan did it."
And for many of the volunteers, such recognition isn't necessary.
Judi McBride of Cape Bible Chapel said that Colossians 3:17 sums up why the church participates. The verse reads: "And whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (New International Version)
Meals on Wheels began in 1974 in Cape Girardeau with seven clients on three routes and has expanded to 80 clients on seven routes. Capacity is 112 recipients.
Anne Limbaugh, a former Cape Girardeau resident who now lives in St. Louis, founded the program because she'd seen how it worked in Jefferson City. She encouraged her church, Centenary United Methodist, to get involved and recruited friends from Christ Episcopal Church and First Presbyterian Church.
Today, 24 congregations regularly volunteer with Meals on Wheels to deliver the trays of food prepared by the staff at Southeast Missouri Hospital. The churches recruit teams of volunteers to deliver the seven routes that cover the city. Each church participates about four times a year.
While it only takes an hour to make the deliveries, the reward lasts much longer. And some volunteers have found that it's a fantastic way to form friendships.
Children at Lynwood Baptist Church make cards and tray favors for the recipients, and include their phone number. Lynwood's coordinator, Audrey Golden, said the children are delighted if they receive a thank-you call.
Eighth-graders at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School often accompany the church's volunteers during delivery week. Coordinator Mary Russell Fox said the program sparks some good discussions back in the classroom.
Members of the Cape Girardeau County Area Medical Alliance and some church groups eat together on the Friday of their delivery week to share stories about their visits.
There really isn't another community activity that has a better spirit than Meals on Wheels, said Peter Hilty, a regular volunteer.
335-6611, extension 126