Churches unite to offer free meals to needy in affluent South Carroll Feed My Sheep lunches served beginning Oct. 5

September 13, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

South Carroll, the county's most populous area with many elegant and pricey homes, will soon serve its needy a free hot meal.

Feed My Sheep, sponsored by a dozen United Methodist congregations, will provide lunches every Monday, starting Oct. 5, at Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church on Johnsville Road in Eldersburg.

The Rev. Kathleen S. Lossau, pastor of Bethesda United Methodist Church on Klee Mill Road, has long been aware of "the subculture here that is not part of the wealthy growth." It is those people she is inviting to lunch.

"There is a tremendous misconception that a soup ministry is not needed here," Lossau said. "For a long time, the poor have not been visible, but they are here and finally this community is opening its eyes.

"We have had reports of people looking for food at Carrolltown Center and in the apartments behind Wesley Freedom Church," she said.

Many people walk great distances to soup kitchens in Westminster, where Lossau volunteers. A lunch program in South Carroll could make it easier for people who lack transportation, like the mother who walked more than four hours to lunch in Westminster with a toddler in a stroller, Lossau said.

"People will walk, ride a bike, go long distances to get a meal, and there just aren't that many places," she said.

Every pastor knows families in crisis, people who come to the parish house with pleas for help or make phone calls for assistance.

"Not a week goes by that somebody doesn't come here for emergency relief," said the Rev. John Wunderlich, associate pastor at Wesley Freedom. "We also minister to transients on Liberty Road."

With about 1,400 members, Wesley Freedom is by far the largest congregation in the group. Many of the smaller churches will join together to prepare the meal. "You can do this soup ministry with a half-dozen commited people," said Wunderlich.

Increasing numbers at a bag lunch giveaway at a Sykesville church also alerted pastors to the need. As many as 50 people take those lunches home each Wednesday.

"We have a mix of people, every age coming to us," said the Rev. John Morrill, pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, one of the sponsors of the bag lunch program. "There are so many people just surviving, really struggling, across the street from $350,000 homes."

Fliers about the new program will go into each bag.

"If folks are hungry enough on Wednesday to get a bag lunch, they will be hungry on Monday, too," Wunderlich said.

The group relied on the experience of several Westminster churches that operate soup kitchens. Kathy Brown helped organize Shepherd's Table at Westminster United Methodist Church, which serves about 75 meals every Friday.

Brown, the director of Shepherd's Staff, an ecumenical ministry to the needy, lent the South Carroll group "our philosophy, menus and guidelines. You are seating people who are really hungry and feeding their souls. They are guests and should be vTC treated as guests."

The kitchen at Wesley Freedom can serve about 200, but initially Feed My Sheep expects 50 guests and will have eight volunteers preparing meals on the site. Churches will alternate Mondays, plan the menus and provide ingredients. Donations will keep the pantry filled with paper and plastic products.

With advice from dietitians, the group will prepare economical, but well-balanced meals "that are as filling as possible because that might be the only meal a person has that day," said Lossau.

Nobody will count diners, Wunderlich said.

"We might be disappointed if we only have five people but not discouraged. That will mean five people who ate that day who might not have without us."

Wunderlich plans to cook, but he won't be staying in the kitchen.

"I want to build friendships with our guests and invite them back," he said.

The county Health Department has inspected the kitchen and offered to instruct volunteers in food handling.

Wunderlich has contacted neighbors in the areas surrounding the church. Many are members of the parish. He has not found anyone who objects to the ministry.

"This is not the chic group to work with," Wunderlich said. "They are easy to overlook, especially with the government's changing role in welfare. Churches need to step up and fill the gap."

Lossau is hoping the interfaith community becomes involved. Maybe then South Carroll can serve daily lunches so no one goes hungry.

"Different churches offer different gifts and graces," she said. "We bring all our resources, people and prayer power together. We are here to be servants for the guests at our table."

Feed My Sheep will serve lunch from noon to 1 p.m. Mondays, beginning Oct. 5, at Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church, 961 Johnsville Road. Information: 410-795-2777.

Pub Date: 9/13/98

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