Union County

It’s a meal that says ‘We love you’

Volunteers pray before guests arrive.
Volunteers pray before guests arrive. KIM BECKNELL WILLIAMS

Ellen Genova, Robin Farrell and Chad Caig wanted to help the community.

They got an idea from a small West Virginia church that had only 50 members but was able to serve food to 425 people in their community who were in need.

They called the effort “Shepherd’s Table.”

Knowing that their church, Stallings United Methodist Church, was much bigger and they had a large, well-equipped kitchen, it seemed like an ideal outreach project. With the help of many volunteers and support of their pastor, they served the first meal in June 2015 to 27 people. On the last Saturday of every month, they continue to feed all those who come, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., in the church fellowship hall. They never know how many will be there. They’ve had nearly 100 on two occasions, including take-out orders.

To spread the word they distribute flyers that resemble invitations to various food pantries and shelters. Never knowing how many people will arrive, they cook a lot of food.

“I would hope to have so many people that I’d have to go buy more food,” Caig said. “That has been our prayer.”

The Oct. 31 meal used leftover barbeque that had been frozen from the church Men’s Barbeque. One month Robin Farrell made copies of a recipe for chicken tetrazzini and taped it on baking trays to hand out to members of the church. All the desserts are homemade.

This was a way to involve people who wanted to help but couldn’t commit to being there for the lunches.

The three volunteers who spearheaded the project bring different strengths to keep the program going.

“Robin is our gift in the kitchen,” Genova said. “Chad is the engineer behind it. I am the people person.”

Menus are planned. Meals are prepared. Tables are set.

When people arrive, they are greeted by a hostess who seats them. A waiter/waitress takes their order and they are served.

“This is just a meal, but we can say we love you,” Robin Farrell said. “We care about you.”

A prayer request table is set up for people to leave their requests. Some are written by children and many by adults. The requests are read before the congregation the following Sunday.

A book and toy table allows children who attend the lunch to take something home. Books and toys are donated by volunteers. Since the October lunch fell on Halloween, there also was a Halloween craft table for children.

They are beginning plans to provide clothing items.

“We’re reaching a lot of people who aren’t homeless,” Caig said. “They just need a meal.”

While most are from Union County, a group of 15-25 children are driven to the lunches from a YWCA group in Charlotte. One group of about eight ladies from Indian Trail come and sing hymns around the piano.

It’s a great ministry we’re doing here,” said Scott Ireland, senior pastor at Stallings United Methodist. “We prepare a lot of food because we want a lot of people to come.”

The lunches are open to anyone who wants to be included. Any leftover food is taken to homeless shelters.

“It’s not about Stallings,” Genova said. “It’s about God and the people.”

Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer: kimbecknellwilliams@gmail.com.