Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Local church offers free lunches

Local+church+offers+free+lunches

Over thirty years ago the First United Methodist Church set out on a mission to provide free meals. In the decades the program has been running it has faced numerous challenges including a dwindling pool of volunteers, and nearly having to shut down during COVID-19. However, the program has managed to survive each of these struggles, albeit only by radically changing from its original form. Every Tuesday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the church carries out its goal of providing free meals. The titular leader of the Free Lunches Program is Doug Anderson, the chairman of the Free Lunches committees, however, according to him he’s not the one who really runs things. 

“Dawn plans the meals, cooks the meals, serves the meals, everything,” said Anderson. Dawn Aiello-Klocek is in charge of looking through the donations (some of which come from the food pantry, some come from members of the community) and figuring out what meals she can make out of them. Occasionally, around the holidays, she will try to make themed meals. Last Halloween for example she made mashed potato ghosts. Aiello-klocek is also at the church every Tuesday to serve the meals she cooks. 

A conversation with Aiello-Klocek revealed just how much the program has changed over the years. One of the most striking differences is the dwindling number of volunteers. Originally the project was run by multiple groups of volunteers, today it is run by a single group of rotating volunteers with only Aiello-Klocek working every week. During the COVID-19 pandemic the church also began allowing people to pick up meals to go, picking up meals has now become the most popular option among people who attend the program. At its height the program served 400 people on Tuesdays, but now still feeds about 120 each week. 

“The goal is to feed the hungry – whatever we can do to help with that, we’ll do it,” Aiello-Klocek  said. 

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Blake Erwin, Community News Editor

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