A decade ago, Betty Snapp, who has been involved in countless "do-good" missions over the years, including her role as founder of Sunshine Center, had a calling. That calling landed her in her kitchen, cooking food for those that needed a meal and camaraderie. From her kitchen, the meal grew into the Stone Church Neighborhood Dinner. Her husband, Terry, was right beside her as their vision became reality.
The Stone Church Neighborhood Dinner is held in the fellowship hall of Stone Church Community of Christ, where the Snapps attend, and where Terry is a former pastor. The Dinner is held every Wednesday, and serves, on average, about 250 hot meals a week. In 2019, the Neighborhood Dinner will celebrate its 10th anniversary of helping our neighbors.
The meal is open to anyone, but primarily serves those who struggle with hunger and homelessness. Over the years, many of the guests have remarked that the Dinner is the one time of the week when they interact with others. Serving the poverty of isolation and loneliness is a key function of the Dinner.
Volunteers, some 700 of whom helped with the Dinner in 2018, help with all aspects of the Dinner - food preparation, table set-up, making drinks, welcoming guests, serving food, and cleaning up. Church groups, corporate groups, civic organizations, and many others come weekly to help the meal run. As the years have passed, many partnerships have boosted the impact of the Dinner. A team of yet more volunteers brings books and magazines for guests to enjoy, offers basic hygiene items through Giving the Basics, oftentimes additional food items are made available to guests through an ad hoc pantry, spiritual counseling is available upon request by a guest, clothing and other items valued by our neighbors that lack stable housing are provided when available, and social service organizations rotate attendance at the Dinner if guests want to connect to a mainstream service provider.
As the Snapps and the other volunteer Dinner leaders were pondering their future and the future of the Dinner, their thoughts turned to CSL. The Snapps, who have been very involved with CSL over the years, thought that bringing CSL on board as a financial and stewardship partner could help guide the Dinner for years to come. With volunteer-driven organizations, if a key person(s) steps down, the structure can erode quickly. With an organizational partner, there can remain a corporate commitment to the work.
In late 2018, Stone Church Pastor Ken McClain, and I, on behalf of CSL, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that gives CSL management of the Dinner. Some key points of the MOU:
- CSL will handle all oversight of the Dinner, including staffing, food procurement, fundraising (the Dinner needs at least $25,000 annually to meet the community need), reporting, and any other need.
- CSL will promote the Dinner on its website, and through other platforms, as one of its locations
- CSL is recognizing the Neighborhood Dinner, officially, as one of its service centers
I am pleased to announce that CSL has brought on Barb Vinck as our Neighborhood Dinner Manager. Barb was already serving the Dinner as a very committed volunteer. Barb joins our paid staff in this position, and we look forward to reaching levels of efficiency and scale by bringing the Dinner under CSL's umbrella. For example, I see great opportunity in connecting CSL's vast food operation with the Dinner, and ensuring the Dinner has plenty of food supplies. CSL oftentimes gets food items that can only be served in a cafeteria-type setting, and aren't appropriate for family food boxes. The Dinner gives us a great outlet to move these types of food items, and to make sure donated food in our community is moved quickly, efficiently, and without waste. I also see opportunity in the future to integrate CSL's services into the Dinner experience, but in a way that doesn't take away from the core fellowship of it. Having Financial Coaches on site to help families with tax returns or helping them get out of toxic loans can add a great value to the guests.
CSL is grateful that Stone Church has placed its trust in us to steward this community asset for the next generation. Most CSL offices engage with families during the day in an office setting, so I'm excited to have yet another connection point to building relationships with our neighbors. I think our shared future with the Dinner is very bright.
Are you interested in learning more about the Neighborhood Dinner, or continuing your gift of time, talent, or treasure? Please contact Barb Vinck at firstname.lastname@example.org.