Special to the Citizen:
The Meals on Main program is an ecumenical outreach serving hot meals to the needy of our community each Friday, from noon until 1 p.m. This program was started in 2009 inspired by community volunteer Ginger Beverly in response to a sermon she heard on stepping up to meet the needs of those in the community who were struggling with homelessness and hunger. Volunteers have been the backbone of this outreach.
Those in the community who come for these meals are treated as guests, being served their meals by the volunteers as they sit at their tables. Approximately 60 – 75 guests are served each week, and depending on the quantities left over, an average of 30 “to go” boxes are provided for those needing dinner for themselves or for other family members. The guests are of all races and all ages. While we do have several guests who are homeless, the majority are living on limited income from Social Security, welfare, or low-paying jobs.
A number are mentally and/or physically handicapped. Several of these special needs adults, known as Madison Unlimited, will come early to assist with simple set-up tasks such as setting the tables with napkins and silverware and preparing the dessert plates. It is our pleasure to work with all these remarkable volunteers. The program originally was hosted at Madison Presbyterian but is now hosted at Madison Baptist Church in their Social Hall. Our guests enjoy their meals in a comfortable environment. We are staffed by one chef, Eugene Bishop, and an army of volunteers who donate much of the food and also serve the meals. The meat for most of the meals, however, is purchased through donations, most of which come from the generosity of the congregations of the downtown churches in Madison.
Funds are collected and distributed by Jim NeSmith, who also administers the ecumenical Benevolent Fund. Because of this arrangement, we are 501 (3C) under the auspices of, but separate from, the Madison Baptist Church. Each week Laree Zant, one of our volunteers, sends out an email to a list of 99 volunteers asking them to volunteer their time on Friday to serve the meals or to bring in some of the ingredients for the meal which Eugene will use in the preparation of the meal. Volunteers are so generous with their time and resources. We have about 12 menus that we rotate through. We depend on the kindness of donors from our local churches and from concerned residents to fund the cost of meal preparation and to fund the purchase of most of the meats served each week. We are frequently low on funds. We have not hosted fundraisers. Each meal, because of the generosity of our volunteers, costs only about $3.00 per person.