- Grove City, Pennsylvania

July 27, 2012

Free and fine dining, fellowship

Churches offer community dinners

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

GROVE CITY — Nearly 10,000 meals have been served at the Open Door Community Dinner at East Main Presbyterian Church in downtown Grove City since it began in 2009.

Sally Porsch, Grove City, has been going to the free (or donation-only) dinners since they began.

"I enjoy the fellowship," she said. "The food is always great. I don't have to cook and clean up."

Porsch and about four others always meet for the meal that is held every other Wednesday in Fellowship Hall at 120 E. Main St. A ham dinner was held this past Wednesday and a pulled pork dinner is scheduled from 5 to 6 p.m. July 25. 

"It brings people out and some people may not be able to give a donation, but they don't have to," she said.

Like Porsch, John and Jayne Campbell have been attending the meal for three years.

"When our son was unemployed, we came," Mr. Campbell said.

"We get fresh vegetables here we don't get at home. It's helpful to me. I don't have to cook," his wife added. 

Now the dinner has become a tradition for the family. "The meals are real nice and you meet people," Mr. Campbell said.

Although the dinner was started to help the needy - and still does - "a lot of it now is for fellowship," said Richard Leo. "People are lonely, like one person said, 'It sure beats eating another T.V. dinner myself.'"

A lot of the same guests go to the dinner and sit together; new people find friends. The dinner provides live music "about one-third of the time," Leo added.

Leo got the idea for the dinner "because the country was having an economic downturn," he said. He and his wife, Ruth - along with their friends Allen and Kris Lambert - began organizing the event, which blossomed from a handful of guests for the first dinner to an average of more than 129 people now.

The highest number of people coming to the dinner was 149, he noted - and Leo hopes more will start coming.

Many guests are elderly, and sit together in groups, Mrs. Leo said. "It's nothing to have a table of widows," added volunteer Bob Smith.

"We also average about 30 volunteers," Leo said, which attend various congregations in community, not just East Main. Grove City College students often will volunteer during the school year, Mrs. Leo added.

The volunteers "are wonderful," her husband said. "Sometimes we get to talking so much, we forget to cook."

Some fun volunteer titles include "honorable pots and pans person" - often given to GCC volunteers - and "expediter," as well as positions for volunteers to set tables, organize drinks, greet guests, serve and cleanup.

Smith has been volunteering since the dinner began.

"I was a waiter in college and I've always enjoyed that," he said. "I enjoy seeing people and serving others."

Smith's been a member of East Main's Mission Committee for 20 years, and congregant for 42 years.

East Main has some other interesting missions like the Cookie Company, which sends letters to every parent of a GCC student about ordering cookie treats for their children.

Feed My Sheep is a catering group at the church that does events on site - although not the community dinner - with any profits benefiting missions. East Main also sponsors a number of international missions. 

The next pulled pork meal at the Open Door Community Dinner will also include veggies, coleslaw, potato salad and cookies and ice cream, Mrs. Leo said.

"A group of ladies meet every three to four months to do the menus," her husband added, and look for sales at local groceries.

Sometimes the volunteers get donations from people's gardens, like potatoes and corn, Mrs. Leo said. "We had to go pick (the corn)."

It's all part of the Lord's work, Smith said. "Trust in the Lord and do good," states a place mat from the dinner, quoting Psalm 37:3.

"I feel I've been blessed," Smith said, "and to be a blessing to others is doing God's work."

Besides the free Open Door Community Dinner at East Main Presbyterian Church in Fellowship Hall at 120 E. Main St., Grove City, every other Wednesday (next to fall on July 25, at 5 p.m.), there are a number of local dinners in Grove City to find fellowship and good food:

● Tower Presbyterian Church, 248 S. Broad St., Grove City, at 4 p.m. the third Saturday of the month. Dinners will resume in August. Info: 724-458-7260

● First Church of God, 1333 W. Main St., Grove City, at 4:30 p.m. the first Friday of the month. Info: 724-0458-6176

● Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, 2426 Scrubgrass Road, Wolf Creek is hosting a ham dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. today for the community. A free will offering will be taken. Please call 724-475-6005 for future times and dates.

Published July 14, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.