As I stated in a previous newspaper article, in 2009, our pastor at Aurora First Baptist, Roger Brumley, became very concerned about the number of hungry people in Aurora, especially children in the summer after school was out. He encouraged our church to be involved in helping with this problem.
The “Come and Dine Community Dinner” evolved from this need. We took the name from the Bible where Jesus told those around him to ”Come and Dine." In July and August that year, we served 1,758 meals at a total cost of $3,319, which included a new freezer and food warmers. The United Methodist Church, Nazarene Church and Mercy Hospital helped us cook, serve, wash dishes and perform other tasks.
Last year, First Baptist, Engage, Fundamental Methodist, Grace Lutheran, Holy Trinity, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Wilson Avenue Baptist and Mercy Hospital were involved with the Come and Dine meals. We served 10,274 meals in 22 nights and it cost $14,870.23. The cost would have been much higher if not for food donations from various businesses.
Tyson Food and Schreiber’s always donate chicken and cheese to help us out. More than 3,312 desserts have been donated by members of the various churches involved with Come and Dine. As you can see, the number of meals has increased steadily in the last eight years, but so have the expenses. We serve meals each Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Since we started in 2009, we have served a total of 52,280 meals.
First Baptist is responsible for buying all the food, while area churches and Mercy Hospital help us cook, serve, and wash dishes. We have grown from three churches and Mercy helping in 2009 to eight churches and Mercy in 2016. More churches are seeing the need to get involved.
The Come and Dine Community Dinners are meeting the needs of many families in Aurora during the summer after summer school is out.
We serve meals to children, families, single individuals, senior citizens and the homeless at our meals. With the economy causing everyone to have to stretch every dollar, we eight churches and Mercy Hospital want to help everyone possible to have a full course meal to eat, especially during the seven weeks after summer school is out until school starts again the middle of August. We follow Federal Food Guidelines in that everyone gets a meat, potato/rice, vegetable, salad, fruit and bread. Federal guidelines do not require a dessert, but we also provide this. Everyone needs dessert!
We prefer that everyone come to First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall to eat as they will have more food available, but we do deliver to those who cannot come in because of physical disabilities and/or lack of transportation. Those eating at the church have extra side dishes available to them if they wish to have them. These cannot be provided to deliveries as there is only so much we can put in the delivery boxes.
Feeding children is very important; last year we delivered meals each night to 153 children who could not come in because their parents were working and they were with babysitters, or the family only had one car and one of the parents had to take it to get to work at night. For some, this was the only meal they had that day.
Some families have told us that they come in to eat with us on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, get take out on Thursday, don’t eat on Friday, eat the takeout on Saturday, don’t eat on Sunday and then come back and eat with us on Monday night.
Some senior adults told us that the free meals made it easier for them to buy their medicine and they didn’t have to worry about whether to buy food or buy their medicine.
The economy in the Aurora area has not improved like is has on the West or East coast, some food stamps and other programs have been cut, and food prices are rising. We anticipate serving even more meals this summer. People have the misconception that churches are wealthy, but when the economy is weak, people do not give to the church. We only stay open because of donations to the church. We must rely on donations to help with the Come and Dine Community Dinners.
Those who would like to donate and/or to help with the meals are invited to contact Aurora First Baptist at 678-3774 or Barbara Wommack at 678-3669.