by G C Stoppel
Residents in and around Allegan will perhaps remember the “Blessed Table” lunches served at the local Presbyterian church. The church has since closed, and the group has now moved and has a new name.
They are now called Delightful Gatherings, and have moved to the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd at 101 N Walnut Street in Allegan. A warm meal is served every Tuesday from 1130 to 1 PM. Guests are invited to either enjoy their meal at the church or take it home. Just as before, there is no charge to the diners.
The core leadership is made up of April Reimink and her mother Yvonne, and Mike Matting. Others come and join them as volunteers. Looking around the newly remodeled and commercial grade kitchen, Mike said, “This is a tremendous place to work.” The others agreed.
All of the meals are homemade in the church kitchen, from ‘scratch,” one of them said. “The food is important,” April said. “There are still a lot of hungry people in our area, and we want to do what we can. That’s important. That is my true passion.”
When asked how the group can afford to do this, they answered that various individuals and groups have been very helpful. “We work with several different food pantry organizations,” Yvonne said, her eyes dancing with excitement.
“And, so far, no one has ‘copped’ or abused the system,” Mike added. “They just don’t.”
Providing a weekly warm and nutritious meal is important, but it is not the only concern. “We hope people will feel comfortable coming in, sitting down to have their lunch, and spend some time talking with others. I think they are starting to do that again.” April explained. “Sometimes, the social interaction is just as important as a good meal. It might even be more important for some of our guests.”
According to the British medical journal Lancet many physicians and others have proven that acute loneliness is often the root cause of most serious and fatal illnesses. Lonely people who do not have friends and family as their support group do not eat nearly as well, rarely look after their own health, and begin to mentally decline before their time. They are more likely to commit suicide because they have lost the will to live.
The Blessed Table “squadron” as April has sometimes called them, are trying to address both hunger and loneliness. Her mother, Yvonne, added, “We hope people will come to eat and stay for the conversation. That’s what puts a real smile on my face; when I see people talking and laughing together.
The doors open at 11:30 on Tuesday morning, and the meals are served until 1. Anyone who wants to volunteer will be warmly and gladly received. Sometimes, the best fun and best relationships are created when people are working together in the kitchen.
To find out even more about Blessed Table, please stop by Good Shepherd on a Tuesday to have a conversation with April, Yvonne, or Mike.
by G C Stoppel