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.