Church offers meals for local families in needWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
When Liz Lacy noticed a lack of community meals on Sunday nights, she decided to do something about it with her parish, Collingwood Presbyterian Church.
Lacy, who has been a parishioner for five years, has experience with needing a meal Sunday evenings. She became homeless about six weeks ago when she couldn’t find work.
“[The Toledo homeless population] is much larger than you would expect. Being in the situation myself, I realized that Sunday nights, there’s no place to go to eat. If you’re already in the shelter, yes, you will have a meal. But as far as if you’re on the street or living in your car, and families are living in their cars, Sunday night comes and boom, you’re stuck,” she said.
Lacy and co-chair Lynn LaPlante organized Collingwood’s Jan. 29 community meal. The family-friendly meals are set for the last Sunday of each month and each has a theme. January’s was soup and “next month, we’re doing family favorite, casseroles. I’m hoping in the summer to do barbecue outside,” Lacy said.
The meal is modeled off of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s Sunday night meals. “I went to St. Mark’s several times last year because I lived in the Old West End and I wanted to see what they were doing and how they were doing it,” Lacy said.
Originally, Collingwood wanted to take a different day, but after St. Mark’s merged with Trinity Episcopal Church last month, Collingwood decided it would keep the tradition of serving the meal on the last Sunday.
Collingwood prides itself on reaching out to the community, said Interim Pastor Bob Anderson.
“Jesus was big on hospitality and caring for the needy and welcoming the stranger,” Anderson said. “There’s abundance in this world that needs to be shared.”
The parish’s Dreamscape program looks at ways the church can better serve the community, something that Collingwood has done since its beginnings in the 1800s, Anderson said. Collingwood houses homeless families through the Interfaith Hospitality Network, a program the church began 22 years ago.
“[The community meal] is one of the ways we’re trying to revive that and live into that vision. We’ll create a larger presence in this community as a neighbor,” Anderson said.
The meal is nondenominational, Lacy added.
“It’s not meant to be and I hope it doesn’t become a Collingwood Presbyterian dinner. It’s a community dinner; it just happens to be here in the church,” Lacy said.
At the first community meal, people brought about two dozen soups. Roughly 30 volunteers helped feed about 150 people, a number Lacy hopes to increase.
“It’s not as many people from the community as we would have liked, but that’s OK because through word of mouth, we’ll be able to generate more people,” she said.
Lacy, who has degrees in French and journalism, plans to begin culinary training soon and eventually go into catering, she said. Already, she is a go-to person for all things food-related at the parish and the dinner received rave reviews.
“Everything I heard was positive, like, ‘When can we do it again?’” she said.
The next dinner will be 4 p.m. Feb. 26 at Collingwood Presbyterian Church, 2108 Collingwood Blvd. To donate an item or volunteer, call (419) 243-3275 and leave a message for Lacy or LaPlante.