Ohio ‘Lunches with Love’ program expands
Times Leader Correspondent
SMITHFIELD, Ohio (AP) – This marks the ninth year for Lunches with Love, described by at least one volunteer as “a blessed ministry of love.”
Lunches with Love, which began with only six clients and as a result of compassion, now has grown to serve 57 and keeps growing in numbers and services.
It all started when Rose Bell of the Smithfield United Methodist Church and Pat Taylor of the Piney Fork Presbyterian Church decided to visit shut-ins because they weren’t able to attend church services. Light lunches and bakery goods soon were added. Then, John and Peggy Hockenberry donated enough money to get the program started to become what it is today, and it became known as Lunches with Love.
The lunch program began in the basement of the Smithfield United Methodist Church and then were moved to the Smithfield Presbyterian Church. After four years, that facility was outgrown so it was moved to the basement of the former Catholic Church, now known as “The Gathering Place” on Main Street.
Four years ago, 36 clients were served, and the number has grown to 57. Clients still are being accepted for the special lunch program, and meals are provided to those in a six-mile radius of Smithfield.
Taylor, who serves as director of Lunches of Love, said she wanted a place where everyone would feel comfortable. Lorrie Greene, a volunteer, suggested the name, The Gathering Place. Twenty-four persons, including teenagers, volunteer in the program, and 4-H organizations help by making crafts and table decorations.
“Hopefully, more teenagers will get involved this summer and also go on visitations while delivering food to shut-ins,” said Taylor. The Gathering Place is open four days a week, Tuesdays through Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
This is a nonprofit group solely supported by donations and fund-raisers and it will accept any volunteers to help keep it going, according to Taylor. “The volunteers I have are wonderful,” she said.
Taylor said that she would like to have craft and exercise classes open to anyone interested. Sewing, cooking and baking classes are in the works, according to the director.
Coffee, tea and snacks are available at no charge to those gathering at The Gathering Place. Light lunches are available for a reasonable cost.
The second Sunday of each month, a dinner is planned.
Those interested in volunteering every other Friday are to go to The Gathering Place. It was noted that drivers are always needed. Lunch is served after deliveries are made. Anyone who wants lunch at The Gathering Place is to call Wednesdays for reservations; the cost of these meals is $5.
A volunteer described the meals as “just fantastic.”
“Twice As Nice Second-Hand Shop” has been added as a fund-raiser. Clean donations of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing as well as household knickknacks are accepted for the shop.
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