by Lisa Tome
Last month, a senior citizen dressed up in his best then drove to Calvert Manor Healthcare and picked his wife, a resident there, up for a date.
Rather than take her to a fancy restaurant, he took her on a date to Way of Life Community Church.
The couple was served a meal, offered nonperishable canned goods for home, and asked if they needed warm clothing, shoes, or other items.
Everything was free and no one asked their income.
The date night came courtesy of the People Helping People program held monthly at Way of Life.
Michael Brown and Laurie Shires co-founded the program a year ago this month. Shires had worked adopting families for Christmas and she and Brown decided that there was probably a year round need. That's when the meal, clothes, and food pantry distributions were born.
"We had five people at the first dinner last March. Now we're averaging 60-80 people a month. We serve everyone, we have seniors from next door (Fairview Senior Housing), we have children and adults," said Brown.
Church members donate clothing, shoes, blankets, and more. Guests are also invited to take canned goods from the church pantry. On meal service day, volunteers also sort the clothes onto tables according to size. "This makes me see God work. Some of the workers are now people who we helped here," said Brown. Wendy Strimel distributes clothing and the pantry food. "A lot of people need food to make it through. We just try to meet the needs of the community. There is a lot of need in the community and we run out of food a lot," said Strimel.
One of the unique aspects of this meal is the table service. Members of the church youth group, Wired, served as waiters and waitresses, taking orders and bringing food back to the tables after the orders are filled by adult volunteers. Emily Bean, 13, has been serving up dinner for a year. "I look forward to this. The people come here and they have a smile on their face. I have served some of the people multiple times," said Bean.
Brown said that about 10 volunteers could handle the event. He said typically, 25-50 turn out to help out, some from other agencies such as Nicanor, STEPS, and Dexter House.
The meals are prepared off site by caterer Elk Mountain BBQ. Brown said the dinners draw people from as far away as Peach Bottom, Pa., Harford County, and Wilmington, Delaware.
Tom Harvey is one of those who helped served the man who brought his wife from the care facility to the church for the date. "It was an honor to serve him," said Harvey.
The third Saturday of every month meals are served at the church, Colonial Way. All are welcome to turn out between 4:30-6:30 p.m.