Tuesday, June 6, 2023

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Food Kitchen gives free meals to hungry 

Food kitchen volunteers, from left, Michon Wiesen, Patricia Fennell, Sandy French and Laura DeGoede at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville prepare free take-out meals for the those in need. — Submitted photo

GREENVILLE — The skyrocketing cost of food, high rent combined with low incomes are what volunteer workers who prepare food in the kitchen at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville believe are contributing factors for people going hungry. 

The volunteers who work at the Food Kitchen are helping by giving out free home cooked meals every Tuesday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Parish Hall. 

“This is an undiscussed problem,” volunteer Sandy French said. “Costs for food and rent are high leaving people destitute with some being forced to live in their cars.” 

There are others French said who are just plain hungry and she doesn’t think it will be getting better anytime soon. While French has been a volunteer in the Food Kitchen for more than a decade, she has noticed a much greater need today. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting food prices will continue to rise to a historic 6.5% throughout, 2023. 

Feeding large groups of people requires a lot of money, time and food. Meals are passed out to at least 90 people every Tuesday. However, French said those numbers may get higher and for that reason more help is needed. 

“We are asking for more people to volunteer to make and distribute meals, volunteer Laura DeGoede said. “It doesn’t matter what church you go to, everyone is welcome. Even as little as three hours in our kitchen every Tuesday would help us so much.” 

The Food Kitchen, DeGoede explained, operates solely from donations of money and contributions of food from the public. She said more donations right now would be greatly appreciated. 

A longtime volunteer who has helped out is Ralph Bain. He helps with the heavy lifting and gives gently used items out to those in need for free while they pick up a meal. 

“Food is important,” Bain said. “It always impresses me when people donate food to us.” 

Shannon Waddell and Olivia Krzynomski, volunteers for the Food Kitchen from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Greenville, explained the volunteer work they do at St. Paul’s Food Kitchen fulfills requirements for their mission assignment to Lansing. 

“We enjoy meeting and working with the people in the Food Kitchen here. There are many things about our different faiths that we have in common,” Waddell said. “The people we see here are going through very hard times. Still, when they come in to get their meal they are so happy and grateful.”

Parish Priest David Vickers said all people from any church in the community who are in need are welcome to receive free meals and nonbelievers too. 

“There are no exclusions,” he said. 

Being a volunteer for our food kitchen ministry, Vickers said, for some, is a calling. “Our volunteers are compassionate, do not judge, condemn or try to convert anyone,” he said. 

There was a time during the COVID pandemic, Vickers said, when lots of different churches in Greenville came together to offer free meals every day of the week. 

“That was a beautiful mission when our community churches came together for one purpose,” he said.

There is a reason why the food ministry is named the Greenville Ecumenical Food Kitchen. 

“Being an ecumenical church means we want different faiths of people to come together to work as one for a mission of purpose,” Vickers said. “Being inclusive is one of the top priorities our church has.”

Vickers said there is a weekly Bible study that includes people who are from different churches in the area. He said there is also a group for the LGBTQ community that meets in their Parish Hall on Sunday evenings named “Table Faith” with Pastor Jason Dillinger. 

“That’s what we do here,” Vickers said. “Everyone is welcome and nobody is excluded.”

When asked why St. Paul’s has chosen the task of feeding the less fortunate he said, “Our church embraces our Food Kitchen outreach because it fulfills one of God’s most important commandments which is to “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” 

If interested in being a volunteer every Tuesday for the Food Kitchen, please stop by and see DeGoede at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Donations may be mailed or given to Laura DeGoede in person at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 pm. 

Greenville Ecumenical Food Kitchen is open on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Parish Hall, 305 S. Clay St. in Greenville. Call (616) 754-3163 for more information.

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