Church Of Our Savior Serves Weekly Meal to Anyone in Need
Each week, persons who are struggling financially or who may not even have a home can count on a nourishing home cooked meal served in the Fireside Room at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in North Platte.
The meal, cooked from scratch each week, is the product of Shari Shore, a mental health counselor in North Platte, and a member of Church of Our Savior. She is joined by volunteers from the parish who assist her in cooking and serving the food.
The first meal was served at COS in the fall of 2012, and have been served continuously since that time, even during Holiday periods. Attendance at the meals varies from the low 60’s to over 100 each week depending on the time of year and the weather on the day the meal is served. So far this year, over 2000 persons have received a nourishing meal at Church of Our Savior since January 1.
Shari, who grew up on a farm near Ravenna, Nebraska, describes herself as a “dump cook” who makes food from scratch from whatever is available and who is highly creative in the use of ingredients and seasonings to make the food nourishing and taste great. She plans menus shortly before the meals and relies heavily on the commodities which arrive at COS each Wednesday afternoon by way of of a free food distribution program available to food pantries and community outreach programs in North Platte courtesy of the Walmart Distribution Center.
Walmart provides a semi trailer load of fresh food each week at the Salvation Army Family Center in North Platte and over 20 public service agencies send representatives to collect the commodities every Wednesday afternoon. COS usually receives two pickup loads of food each week from which much of the dinner is made. Foodstuffs left over from the meal preparation are often given to the diners to take home to supplement their diets.
Meat is usually not distributed by Walmart so that part of the meal must be purchased as well as items such as bread and juice, etc. One parishioner of COS has provided beef to the church to be used in the meals, greatly aiding in holding down the cost of the meals. Other parishioners have donated money to help finance the program and the meals are not a drain on the budget at COS. Persons attending the meals are asked to provide a donation of $2.00 if they can and so far the program has been self sustaining with the donations of food stuffs and funds.
Recently, letters were sent out to three other downtown North Platte churches advising them of the outreach and asking if they would be willing to participate in this program through sending volunteers to help prepare and serve the meals. Two of the churches, First Christian Church and St Patrick’s Catholic Church, answered the call with volunteers and are now regular helpers with the program along side the volunteers from Church of Our Savior. In addition, St Patrick’s contributes a small sum each month to help sustain the outreach.
Before the meal is served each week Shari offers a prayer and a fun joke or story for the diners. Her genuine caring and regard for those who come to partake of the meal is obvious and they respond to her in a very positive manner.
Church of Our Savior hopes that through outreach programs such as The Community Meal, people in North Platte will truly understand that the message which flashes on the electronic sign outside the church is for real – “All Are Welcome Here!”
– Brian Gardner