Feeding the hungry, with a twist

| July 16, 2014 | 0 Comments
Julie Munch, coordinator of Dinner on the Hill community meal at All Saints in Lakeville, serves a plate to Florence Larson during the July 10 event.  Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Julie Munch, coordinator of Dinner on the Hill community meal at All Saints in Lakeville, serves a plate to Florence Larson during the July 10 event.
Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Four friends from the retirement apartments, a woman who just lost her mom, a dad with two young children and a group of young people who study apologetics together. This is an unlikely group to come together to share a meal, company and conversation.

But they did gather, along with many others, at All Saints in Lakeville July 10 for Dinner on the Hill, a community meal offered by the parish’s justice and service commission. Many parishes offer a meal for the hungry of their communities, but this one has a twist. Anyone is welcome. Anyone.

“A lot of them are hungry for food, hungry for entertainment, hungry for fellowship, hungry for conversation, and that’s our whole group,” said Julie Munch, a member of the justice and service commission and coordinator of Dinner on the Hill. “Really, that’s who we serve and who we want to be serving.”

The program, which happens every second Thursday, started last September as a meal for the needy. The commission already has a partnership with an overseas parish and a parish in Minneapolis, but members started to see a need for something in their own backyard.

But, their vision of a community meal for the hungry and homeless didn’t materialize as planned.

“We were really discouraged at first, because we didn’t get a lot of people,” Munch said. “We prayed over it and asked for guidance and we came to the recognition that there are different kinds of hunger and that we had to invite people for a variety of reasons.”

They invited anyone in need of company, conversation and a good meal, for any reason, from any faith and any place.

People come to the church on the big hill and are served by volunteers in a smaller dining room off of the main cafeteria. The tables are set when they arrive, and on this particular evening, live jazz was the soundtrack for the event.

“Oftentimes, it is people who may not be able to cook for themselves. They may not have transportation to get good food for a nice, warm meal,” said Jane Harris, a member of the commission and volunteer at the event.

Rose Young, a long-time parishioner of All Saints, got three of her friends together from the retirement complex where she lives.

“I saw it in the bulletin and thought we should come,” she said. “We came last month and we’re back again.”

The food is good, getting lots of “oohs” and “ahhs,” Munch said. They even get suggestions of what guests would like for future dinners.

“One guest suggested hotdish because it’s something that one person isn’t going to make a whole quantity of for themselves,” Harris said.

In the kitchen, Mike Harris and Gary Heald dished up plate after plate of pulled pork sandwiches, corn-on-the-cob and potato salad.

“If you don’t feed the body, how can you feed the soul?” Mike said. “It’s a community meal; some people need the community need filled and some people need the meal. That’s why we do it.”

A group of young people who meet at All Saints to study apologetics took up two tables. They normally meet for dinner before their studies and decided to see what the event was all about.

“I’ve been hoping that they would get something like this going for years,” said Bill Rysavy, co-leader of the group. “I love the idea of quiet evangelization. . . . It’s to try to build the sense of community up with people who otherwise may not have felt drawn in.”

Right now, the commission is providing foodshelf-type items for people to take with them when they leave.

But, the intent is to offer broader services in the future. The group is thinking of starting with transportation to the dinner for people who need it, and expanding later.

“It is kind of intended that we develop this program. We grow it and we keep building on it. That’s our intention here. This is small in terms of what we want and what we really see for the future,” Munch said.

“We investigated a lot of other programs before we did this, and we find that a lot of our neighbors in Protestant churches are way ahead of us in terms of Christian outreach, and so we feel that’s where we need to be moving and [be] more ecumenical,” Jane Harris said.

The commission has been working with Hosanna Lutheran Church in Lakeville because it has a similar program that’s been successful.

The August dinner, which will be on the 14th, will be held along with the annual parish garage sale, a summer celebration under a tent outside with a grill theme, Munch said.

“I’m so thankful for All Saints to offer something like this,” she said. “So thankful and proud.”

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