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One year and still serving
by MATTHEW NASH
The dinner blessings continue at Trinity United Methodist Church’s monthly free dinner program.
Sue Christensen, dinner coordinator, said she and a faithful group of volunteers have prepped 12 free monthly meals since April 29, 2010. The event continues the last Thursday of each month, with this month’s event at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 28.
“It’s been exciting,” Christensen said.
“Of course it’s work but the church is gratified as a whole. It’s a really wonderful evening.”
Christensen developed the free dinner platform and church members quickly supported the idea with ongoing financial and food donations and volunteer hours.
She estimates 178 different people have received 544 meals, prepared by 57 church members and community volunteers. Volunteers received 275 meals for their efforts.
Volunteer Marsha Chatfield has attended the event each time to decorate, set up tables, take reservations by phone and clean up. She finds the dinners really help people.
“In talking to people, some of them really have struggles in their lives,” Chatfield said. “Every month we’re told how much they appreciate it.”
Christensen said all types of people attend.
“We have people who come because they need a meal. We have people who come because they need social contact. We have people who find accessibility works for them at our church,” Christensen said.
“It’s a wonderful sense of community. People start chatting and to make an announcement and say a prayer takes a bit of work.”
Organizers said a number of people have been steered toward needed services from nonprofits and other assistance.
Meals typically include meat, potatoes, various salads, drinks and desserts.
Christensen said their Thanksgiving dinner had “the works” and was their best-attended event, with 90 people.
Attendance dropped slightly afterward and the February event was postponed to the Saturday following due to inclement weather.
In March, 65 people attended the event, which Christensen feels is a sign that more people will come out toward the summer.
Chatfield said they saw a lot of the same people but now that the weather is getting better, more new faces are coming.
As an added bonus to diners, organizers try to recruit entertainment such as accordion players and the Sequim High School choir. They also lead their own sing-alongs.
Little for a lot
An average meal costs the church about $100, with most money going toward fresh meats.
Sequim Food Bank donates meats three times a year and church members bring in nonperishables requested on a list available at the church.
Christensen said the food bank has been a wonderful resource — always helpful, with cheerful volunteers eager to help.
“If I don’t put the (menu) cards out for people to bring things, then they call me or come by the house. People have been really willing,” she said.
Word on the street spreads quickly, too.
Volunteers distribute dinner information to about 30 places in Sequim.
Chatfield said the event isn’t intimidating at all.
“It’s strictly to help people with food,” she said.
“It’s not about recruiting new members. We don’t want to make them feel pressured.”
Organizers recently started announcing church service times but always lead the event in prayer.
To receive a free meal, families and individuals must phone or e-mail ahead for a seat.
Christensen said they don’t turn anyone away and that about 98 percent of guests make reservations, which allows for them to prepare properly.
To reserve a dinner place, reach Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 Blake Ave., at 683-5367 or firstname.lastname@example.org.