|Monday Meals are for all ages|
“We want to get the word out about the free meals, not just for seniors, but for anyone in need,” said board member Pam Chabora.
Every Monday, except on major holidays, volunteers gather at an area church to provide a balanced meal for anyone who attends. Socializing begins at 4:30 p.m. with snacks and coffee. Then dinner begins at 5:30 p.m.
At this time 80 percent of the attendees are seniors, but the committee wants people to know that it is open to families, single parents, grandparents and their grandchildren. The program helps people who are food insecure to get through the week.
“We want to reach people right on the line of not enough,” said Chabora. The meal is also important for “those who just need someone to talk to. I lost my husband last year. I’m alone a lot,” she said. Going to the Monday Meal to eat or volunteer gives Chabora the chance to visit with new and old friends.
Monday Meals started in 1999 under the direction of Marsha Douglas, who has since passed away, but her legacy lives on through the work of dedicated volunteers like Janey Brown, who has been there from the beginning.
“I feel it’s one of those things I could do that was worthwhile,” she said. She hopes to get the word out about the service they provide. “There’s one meal a week they can utilize for themselves and their families. It’s not just for the old folks on a budget.”
The numbers of guests have been decreasing in recent months. Chabora explains that there is a different kind of poverty in the rural areas. People are prideful and don’t want to admit that they might need the help, believing that someone needs it more. In the city, it’s different. They are more “straight forward with the need,” she said.
The meals vary week to week, but certain churches become known for certain specialties. In the summer Monday Meals are always held at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church at the intersection of River Road and Windham Center Road. Many ingredients for the meal come from the garden the church plants.
The clientele knows what will probably be served on certain weeks. They think, this is the church that makes the gingerbread for dessert or makes the baked ziti for dinner. In the winter, it’s “stick to your bones kind of food,” Chabora said. In the summer, it’s more salads and sandwiches or soup. There are also accommodations for those who need sugar-free desserts. At the end of the meal, leftovers are packed in take-away containers for the dinner guest to take home.
On Thanksgiving, Monday Meals served almost 200 people. All churches help to make everything from scratch and serve the meal at the North Windham Union Church. In the summer, there is a barbeque at Dundee Park with watermelon, burgers, hot dogs and a lot of special items.
The board of directors of Monday Meals needs help from area organizations to volunteer to make a meal, set up tables, set the tables, serve the meal, visit with the guests and/or do clean up or any combination of those things.
Groups like Girl Scouts, student nursing students from Saint Joseph’s College and the Key Club from the high school, all take turns volunteering. There are many opportunities to help. Even if it’s only once a year that a group volunteers to make a meal, it is helpful. Brown and Chabora are always willing to give meal ideas to volunteers.
“I get such joy from giving,” said Chabora. The board is also looking for new members to infuse it with new energy.
Chabora is working on a new website that will provide information about volunteer opportunities, location of meals, ride sharing and links to the Windham Food Pantry and St. Ann’s Essentials Pantry.
People come from all surrounding areas, they don’t have to be from Windham. Some come from as far away as Limington and Buxton. Other churches that are in the rotation are North Windham Union Church on Route 302 in Windham (First Monday), Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Route 302 in Windham (Second Monday)
The next meal will be on April 23rd at Windham Hill UCC on Windham Center Road (Third and fourth Mondays) and then, April 30th at Standish Congregational Church at 25 Oak Hill Road (Fifth Monday). Dropping by to help is always welcome. Preparations begin at 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m.
For more information or to sign up to volunteer, call Janey Brown at 892-9212 or email Pamela.Chabora@gmail.com or MondayMealME@gmail.com.