At St. John’s Lutheran Church in La Grange, Illinois, members have found joy serving their neighbors in ways they might not have expected at the beginning of the year.
When a canceled choir tour visit from Concordia High School in Fort Wayne in March left church volunteers with 50 pounds of hamburger on their hands and no way to use it, nobody knew that a new ministry was about to be born.
Not wanting the food to go to waste, Katie Pece, a teacher at St. John’s Lutheran School, came up with the idea to provide free meals to anyone who might need them.
“This is what Jesus calls us to do—to help those who could use the help,” said Sue Kunz, a former teacher at St. John’s Lutheran School and co-organizer.
For their first meal, a team of volunteers made sloppy joes, providing over 120 servings to about 40 families. Six months later, they have prepared over 2,000 servings.
The core collaborators consist of five women, with other faithful volunteers helping where needed. “I like to think of Katie as the general and us other four as her lieutenants,” said Kunz. “And then we have a whole bunch of foot soldiers who do different things.”
Anyone who needs a meal can sign up using SignUpGenius. They can choose to pick up the meal at St. John’s or to have it delivered to their home.
Tom Brown, president of the congregation, typically delivers food for multiple families. This is especially helpful for elderly people who have trouble leaving their houses.
“It’s amazing how it’s caught on and how many people have been served. I do my part. It’s amazing how many volunteers come to help out where they can,” said Brown.
Pick-up times are full of friendly sharing and fellowship. Pastor Mark Stapleton comes with Comfort Dog Angel to greet families and volunteers. Pece and other volunteers chat with each other and share news.
Volunteers have prepared a variety of foods: soup, lasagna, tacos, lemon Greek chicken, casseroles, pasta with salad, chicken parmesan, hot dogs and hamburgers, and more. They always try to include something special with each their meals, like homemade bread or other sweets, or cards of friendly encouragement.
The Meals on Wheels program is one way that the people of St. John’s have continued to be the Church in the face of challenging times.