MOUNT VERNON — Churches around Mount Vernon have become what some may call “God’s Helping Hands.”
Spreading the love of God through their work in the Hot Meals program, the congregations of nine churches — First Congregational United Church of Christ, Apostolic Christian Church, Seventh-day Adventist, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Gay Street United Methodist Church, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, First Presbyterian Church, First Christian Church and Central Church of Christ — reach hundreds of people with hot meals every day of the week. On Friday, Hot Meals commemorated its 10-year anniversary at Gay Street UMC. Mount Vernon and Mayor Richard Mavis presented a proclamation to each church in appreciation of its dedication to serving the community.
Since the program’s inception on April 30, 2000, community members can come each day of the week for a hot meal and fellowship.
“I’m glad they are always open for people who really need it,” said James Lincoln, Mount Vernon. “For some people this is a real blessing.”
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Rick Stidham, Palmayra. “The churches are great and everyone gets together to help the needy. And you also learn the word of God and what God has done for others in their time of need.”
“I think this is a blessing. There are so many people who come that have different needs and are being helped,” said Justin Wilson, Mount Vernon. “I’m originally from Columbus and I’ve seen hunger in people, but to see the churches come together to help the community is just great.”
“I’m thankful for all the help and all the people who give their time to make this possible,” said Lisa Hoover, Mount Vernon. “The volunteers never complain and their hands are open [to serve].”
Traci Wright of Mount Vernon, who came with her son, Skylar, and friend, Steve Bishop, said the Hot Meals program is a good idea and truly helps the community.
“People have a place to come, have a good meal, meet new people and make new friends,” she said.
“I enjoy the food,” said Bishop as he ate a cheeseburger with baked beans and coleslaw.
He has been coming since the program began, and said he has made many friends through the fellowship.
Manuel Belo, and his wife, Lee, are thankful for the program.
“I’m glad that there are people who live in this city that care about other people,” said Manuel. “Anyone is welcome to come.”
Program founder Robert Hudson said he had no idea the program would grow and thrive for so long.
“I figured two years on the outside, but it has kept going and going. And the crowds continue to get big; we used to average about 40, but now we’re up in the 80s a night. I think it has a lot to do with the economy,” said Hudson. “It’s hard to even visualize how many meals were served over the past 10 years.”
Through the dedication of volunteers, church members and community members, the Hot Meals program continues to feed the hungry.
Other groups have begun to help in different ways. Faith Lutheran Church donates fresh vegetables from its community garden, and students from local schools volunteer as well as the Boy Scouts.
Friday was Marilyn Hoye’s first day as a volunteer for Gay Street UMC.
“I thought this would be a wonderful thing to do and just meet the people that come here. This has really given me the opportunity to help other people,” she said.
Going to church and understanding the need is what inspired Gayle James to be a volunteer.
“I felt the calling to help people,” she said.
“What’s so nice is when we first started out, we only had about four to five meals. Now we have seven meals for every day of the week and it’s covered by wonderful churches,” said Nancy Shafer, a volunteer from St. Vincent.