First Lutheran Church
Tuesday and Thursday 5:30 p.m.
214 N. 4th Street
St. Helens, OR 97051
How do we, as a community, provide support and help for people in this area as they weather the tough financial times they are facing? That was the question posed in May of 2009 to a group of 20 individuals meeting at First Lutheran Church in St. Helens. Out of that discussion, “Community Meals” was born. And the goal to which they committed… “to increase food assistance to our neighbors, especially to those facing tight budgets, job loss, housing loss, frailness or loneliness and for anyone who wants to be part.” As one guest gratefully exclaimed, “If I bring my family twice a week to Community Meals, it takes a whole week’s cost off my grocery bill at the end of the month! Thank you so much for doing this.”Community Meals is an all-volunteer group of individuals. It has been operating as a benevolent kitchen at First Lutheran Church in St. Helens since June, 2009. It is a member agency of the Columbia Pacific Food Bank and the first of its kind for Columbia County, serving hot nutritious meals every Tuesday and Thursday prepared with the resources from the local Food Bank. Community Meals has a restaurant license with the County Health Department and has received all perfect scores from inspections.
Currently there are 120 active volunteers. Participation comes from churches, civic organizations and individual residents from all over the area. Guests also volunteer. The average number of volunteers each month is 104. The average hours volunteered each month are 430+. Volunteer duties include shopping, cooking, baking desserts, serving food, washing dishes, vacuuming, loading boxes, and so much more…. Volunteers are flexible and friendly and they are required to follow USDA guidelines when interacting with guests.
Each meal averages 100 guests, 25% of which are children. Everyone is welcome. Community Meals does not take any names or other information, however, through conversations with guests, volunteers are aware that some guests are homeless and many are unemployed. Community Meals does not put out a “donation” box because we do not wish to put any barrier between the meal and people freely coming.
Community Meals does not just serve food to hungry people. Please read below a condensed version of a letter from a guest who was writing about all she and her family gratefully receive at the meals.
Budget life saver for people who are struggling, a place to meet new friends, a place to volunteer, laughter, smiles, overwhelming acceptance of everyone, extremely nice volunteers who are happy to be there, sitting down together as a family, healthy food with recipes, dessert, Christmas “shopping” for gifts for my children, Boxing Day, home grown vegetables and bread, free nurse to talk to and blood pressure clinic, information about other services for low income people, music, sense of family, supplies for homeless people, and if you are lonely….someone to sit down and have a meal with!
Community Meals has happily fulfilled their goal helping our hurting community the past 3 ½ years and as they look to the future they see an increasing need, with more job losses coming to our area. This meal program is committed to continue “to serve our neighbors with dignity, respect and hospitality.”