Aug. 23 marked the final day of the summer food program at First United Methodist Church of DeKalb. Since June 12, the church has served lunch five days a week to all comers, with casseroles sent home with families each Friday for the weekend. In all, the church served approximately 7,000 meals.
One of the biggest supporters of the project was Schnuck’s grocery store in DeKalb. Schnuck’s donated food every day during the program. Sometimes the delivery volunteers found there was too much food to fit into their cars.
Donations and support also poured forth from the Northern Illinois Food Bank, the DeKalb County Community Foundation, Yaeger’s Farm Market, Monsanto, the Kishwaukee Kiwanis Club, Fanatico Italian Restaurant, Panera, Jimmy John’s, DeKalb County Community Gardens and many more.
Each day, cook Kathi West and her volunteer helpers would work with whatever food arrived, making healthy, delicious meals for the many guests.
According to organizer Connie McCleary, the program has been a huge success, providing much more than meal service for children and adults. Church volunteers staffed two activity rooms where volunteers led the children in activities four days a week, one room for age 3 through first grade and one for grades 2 through 5.
Networking opportunities and assistance with community resources were available in the adult after-lunch room, and Kishwaukee College, Illinois WorkNet Center, DeKalb County Cooperative Extension Service, and DeKalb County Housing Authority also provided information to the guests regarding available community services.
Partnering with DeKalb Wesleyan Church, the church was able to distribute diapers on several occasions for families with very small children.
Volunteers in the children’s rooms provided various creative projects and activities for the younger guests. The Kids’ Club rooms hosted more than 100 children. In addition to many individual volunteers, support came from Midwest Museum of Natural History, Gurler House, DeKalb Fire Department and DeKalb Public Library.
Associate Pastor Brian Gilbert expressed professional and personal feelings about the program.
“We are very happy to be able to offer this ministry to our neighbors in DeKalb,” he said in a news release. “Throughout the New Testament we find several of Jesus’ miracles occur around food and shared meals. And this has been, for us here at the church, nothing short of miraculous.
“What started off as a dream shared by Connie McCleary and Kathi West has turned into something that is transformational! The energy, love and joy that has poured out of not only our volunteers and participants, but also various community businesses, gives me great hope for our community,” he said in the release.
The church plans to continue and expand the program next summer. Plans also are under way to provide services beyond the summer this year.
First United Methodist Church of DeKalb is located at 321 Oak St. For more information, call 815-756-6301 or visit www.firstumc.net.