OAKHURST: The New Community United Methodist Church’s free Wednesday Night Meal will celebrate its fifteenth year of serving free meals on September 11, 2019. There is a multi-denominational celebration planned for 5:30 p.m. in the church’s Whittenburg Hall, located at 49223 Road 426, in Oakhurst.
The idea of serving a community meal was first derived from a visit to a church in Selma by two members, Rev. Jim Luther and Ginger Straughn, who were taking a truck load of clothes to help that church’s mission efforts. In addition to providing clothes to those in need the church also served a free meal to all who came.
On the way home from Selma, Straughn mentioned in passing, “Why can’t we do this in Oakhurst?” Luther replied with a merry quip, “I don’t know. Why can’t you?” And the community meal was born.
Straughn stood up in Church the following Sunday and asked for volunteers to help start a free community meal. At a meeting later that week, half of the congregation showed up to add their support and plan the program which has now served over 39,000 free meals to all who walk through the doors at 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday night.
The first meal was far from a success. With spaghetti and meat balls set to be the main course, Straughn giggled as she recalled, “Besides the church’s congregation, only one person came to the meal and he was a vegetarian!” To his delight, she quickly put together a sauce without meat. Until his passing, he never missed a meal after that first week. In his honor, there continues to be a vegetarian option available.
Over the years, as the program grew, so did the interest of other local churches and groups in the mountain area. Seven years into the effort started by the church, the preparation and serving of the community meal has included the involvement of the Anglican Church, Episcopal Church, Jesus Christ’s Church of Latter Day Saints, Lutheran Church, Positive Living Center, seniors from the HealthCare and Wellness Center as well as members of the Oakhurst Area for Peace.
The anniversary celebration will be open to all who would like to attend, as well as specially invited community leaders. The meal’s donations and preparations will be handled by all the participating churches.
The New Community United Methodist Church asks that you RSVP to 559-683-2652 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org so they will be able to accommodate all who would like to attend.
For more information, please contact:
Pastor Gayle Basten