Church sees in­crease in free din­ner par­tic­i­pants




— For more than a year, Way of Life Com­mu­nity Church has been serv­ing a free din­ner on the third Satur­day of each month and, each month, more at­tend.

Mike Brown, one of the or­ga­niz­ers of the event that be­gan in March 2015, said the third Satur­day was cho­sen for a rea­son.

“We fig­ure that’s about when food stamps start wear­ing out,” Brown said Satur­day as seats filled up in the fel­low­ship hall at the church on Colo­nial Way near the Ce­cil County Pub­lic Li­brary in Ris­ing Sun.

Brown, work­ing with Laurie Shires, started the din­ners with 50 vol­un­teers.

“We had five peo­ple show up,” he said. “We had a real good time of fel­low­ship.”

Through so­cial me­dia, fliers and word of mouth, th­ese no-obli­ga­tion din­ners now av­er­age 80 ev­ery month. Satur­day was also a back-to-school cel­e­bra­tion with free hair­cuts and school sup­plies avail­able. Shires fig­ured more than 100 would visit be­fore the evening was over.

Shires said she and Brown had been dis­cussing help­ing fam­i­lies in need year round.

“We know about how fam­i­lies need help not just at Christ­mas,” she said. While Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas is when at­ten­dance peaks, Shires said they have reg­u­lar visi­tors al­most each month. Din­ner is served from 4:30 un­til 6:30. “They just walk in and sit down,” Shires said. Mem­bers of the church youth group — known col­lec­tively as “Wired” — take each diner’s or­der and bring the food to them.

Elk Mt. BBQ do­nated bar­be­cued beef for the meal on Satur­day. Brown said the meal each month is do­nated ei­ther by restau­rants, cater­ers, church mem­bers or oth- ers in the com­mu­nity. Be­fore leav­ing, each per­son is of­fered non-per­ish­able food and house­hold items.

“Left­overs go to a good cause,” Brown said. “Some­times I feed the home­less in North East.”

For Brown, this is a per­sonal mis­sion af­ter mem­bers of the church stepped out in faith to help him at a low point in his life. “God told me to give back,” Brown said. Mem­ber­ship is not a goal of the din­ners. Both Brown and Shires said there is never any men­tion of at­tend­ing the church or get­ting in­volved. Some, how­ever do find a place there.

“We had a fam­ily that came to ev­ery din­ner for a year,” Shires said. “Now they help us serve.”

Doris Smith has been com­ing to the din­ners for three months.

“Th­ese peo­ple are awe­some,” Smith, from Ris­ing Sun, said. “I like the din­ners. And this does help.”

Smith said she learned of the meals from neigh­bors. Denise Clark­son on the other hand, found out through Face­book.

“I like the peo­ple here,” she said as she dined with her chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. “It’s good to get out with the fam­ily.”

Clark­son, from Ris­ing Sun, said the back­packs full of school sup­plies are also wel­come. Last month’s meat­ball subs was a fa­vorite as was the home­made chicken noodle soup served over the win­ter.

Hav­ing fin­ished her din­ner, Smith ac­cepted a bowl of ice cream from Lo­gan Bo­guski, a mem­ber of Wired.

Mean­while, it was Becky and Eric Jor­dan’s first time at the din­ner.

“We’ll prob­a­bly come back next month,” Becky said. “As a sin­gle mom this helps.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the din­ners, or to vol­un­teer to serve or pro­vide food, con­tact Brown at 443-945-5204.

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