Every Monday night at 5 p.m. the doors of Walnut Memorial Baptist Church open and over 100 community members in need of a meal fill the gym. With what started out as a small group from the church that came forward with a desire to love on and care for those in need in the community, has now grown to approximately 120 mouths to feed and hearts to fill.
“They asked the church to think of starting a soup kitchen at the time and asked to help those in need in our community,” said Helping Hands Chairperson Charlotte Newton. “This is free and open to anyone in the public that is in need.”
Individuals are invited to come and have a cup of coffee and fellowship with a meal served at 6 p.m.
According to Newton, the average attendance lately has been approximately 120 people.
“It’s basically spread by word of mouth,” Newton said. “If we see someone on the street we invite them to come have a meal with us, but we are also on the list in the community of who is open as far as a food kitchen goes.”
In order to feed such a large crowd, the church has a committee of seven individuals including Pastor Shane Kahkola, Sean and Charlotte Newton, Mark and Sally Bullock, Pat Bosley and Joe Grieppenstroh, along with over 25 volunteers each Monday night.
“Our heart is of course in ministry and we want to share the love of God with everyone,” Newton said. “We’ve gotten to share with many people and we’ve had several who have gotten saved there in our gym where we serve the meals every week. Every week you’re likely to see individuals in prayer or with one of our pastors in counseling. It has just opened the door to a lot of ministry and we do have the opportunity also to invite them to church on Sunday and have had quite a few come.”
Charlottee and the team of volunteers prepare the food weekly with donations from the community and members of the church, often taking recipes and “upsizing” them.
“We have some in the community that give us beef or chicken and we go to Sam’s every week to supplement,” Newton said. “We’ve done sloppy joes, we’ve done meatloaf. We always make sure they have meat, a starch, a vegetable and a dessert. Last night we did a chicken stuffing casserole and they absolutely loved it.”
The church also hosts a food pantry where they send home boxes for people in need. They are currently accepting donations of toiletry items such as toilet paper, paper towels and feminine products for their boxes and fresh meat such as chicken or pork for their Helping Hands meals. Although donations are always appreciated, one thing they could always use more of though is volunteers.
“We could absolutely use volunteers,” stated Charlotte. “We would love to have more volunteers that are available to come and sit with the people that come in from the community and really hear their stories and fellowship with them. Our volunteers try to be friendly and helpful in any way that they can.”
Volunteer-driven, the group is committed to not turning anyone away and simply wants to get the word out to share more love with individuals who may need help but aren’t currently attending or aware of the free meal that is available.
“We really have just seen just how blessed we are by it because of how gracious they are and how thankful they are. It’s so worth the time each and every week that we put it out there,” said Charlotte.
For more information on Helping Hands visit their website.