The Feast with Friends ministry began serving lunch to members of the Matthews community about six months ago, at Matthews United Methodist Church in the commons area most Thursdays.
Laurie Little, a former youth pastor for 27 years, spearheads the group of 12 young adults with special needs and four other volunteers who prepare and serve lunch to an estimated 50-75 people from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Little said her son, Will, 26, who has special needs, is one of the reasons she started the ministry.
“He has a great heart and helps me brainstorm,” Little said.
Will Little works as a server in the cafe and is an honorary ministry board member. There are seven people on the board of directors, including Stephanie Walling, whose son, Charlie, 24, also is one of the cafe workers.
“Feast with Friends has been an awesome thing, not only for Charlie but for all the young adults,” Walling said. “It gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. They look at it as a job.”
Many members of the Feast with Friends group attended the church’s Rainbow Express ministries summer school camp for special-needs children and youths, a camp Little started 20 years ago.
Now, three days a week, the members gather for various activities, including fitness and fellowship.
On Wednesdays they work in the church mission garden, which Little helped start. They take some of the seasonal produce (some is distributed to various charities) and use it to prepare the Thursday meals. The group prepares, serves and cleans up.
Little described Feast with Friends as an outreach to the community.
“The idea was to create a community of folks that spend time together with and without disabilities, share their gifts, live life together… and have lifelong friendships,” Little said. “It’s a wonderful picture of the kingdom of God.”
Many customers show up every week, including the Matthews Fire Department, which pulls up in firetrucks.
“They have been so supportive,” Little said. “Our guys are thrilled to see them.”
Belinda Rockman Wilson’s daughter, Cameron, is in the Rainbow Express ministry program. Cameron had to miss one of the weekly lunches when she competed in the National Special Olympics Unified Bowling Tournament in El Paso, Texas, and Wilson said Cameron really missed it.
“Cammy is learning new job skills while building a relationship with people in the community, which is so important for awareness of the challenges she faces,” Wilson said. “And even more importantly, she is also building a stronger relationship with God through this.”
Feast menus vary and stay simple based on what the group is able to do, Little said.
“Obviously it’s not about the food, but it is good,” she said. “It’s about the fellowship. It’s really a joyful thing.”
At one lunch, two diners actually walked into the kitchen and clapped to say thank you to the cooks.
“We invite people to come and sit around the table,” Little said. “Anyone can come.”
There is no charge for lunch but donations are accepted. Little said the organization recently obtained nonprofit status.
“The anchor of what we are doing is God’s abounding love,” Little said. “We are serving others with love.”
Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Kim? Email her at email@example.com.
Want to go?
Matthews United Methodist Church is at 801 S. Trade St. in Matthews.
▪ Visit www.RainbowExpressMinistries.com for dates; lunch is not served every week due to conflicts with the church calendar.