Belair United Methodist Church's community outreach group is preparing to feed the multitudes, but no loaves or fishes will be involved.
Saturday, March 14, the group will offer a free lunch of soup, cornbread, drink and dessert to anyone who wants to join them at the church from 12 noon to 2 p.m.
"It's an invitation to anybody who wants to come, no strings attached," said Pastor Gayle Summey. "We just felt that with the economy like it is, there is no one anywhere who won't benefit from a free meal."
The idea grew from members' concerns about families suffering because of job loss and other economy-related concerns and questions about the possibility of homeless people in the community. The group hasn't been able to identify anyone who is homeless, but hopes that if there is a homeless population in the Panhandle, they can reach out to them and offer them a hot meal.
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"That's one thing we want to see is if it is needed," said Community Outreach member Harold McDonald. "We're going to try it and see. We know people have lost their jobs. You don't have to be living on the street or completely broke to need a meal. We just want to help with one meal and maybe give them a little slack."
Summey emphasizes that the lunch is open to anyone who wants to join them, not just those with financial hardships.
"We just hope we can reach out to people in need and that isn't always financial," Summey said. "Someone may need friendship, or a sounding board, or just to get out of the house."
This is the first free lunch the church has attempted, but Summey hopes it won't be the last. The program has been paid for through donations from church and community members.
"We feel like this one will be the first of many. We hope it will, and we hope each succeeding one will help get the word out."
"It's an invitation to anybody who wants to come, no strings attached.
We just felt that with the economy like it is,
there is no one anywhere
who won't benefit from a free meal."
Belair United Methodist Church pastor