Welcome Table serves up food

 Messenger photos by Kristy Zurbrick

Beverly Poindexter has spent nearly every Thursday over the last two years making Kool-aid, warming rolls, and helping out in other ways at the Welcome Table.

Messenger photos by Kristy Zurbrick

Members of St. Patrick Church’s youth group volunteer at The Welcome Table: (from left) Amy Knapke, Scott Knapke, Eric Knapke, Denise Zimmerman, Abby McNamara and Cheyenne McKinney. 

On Thursday nights, warmth comes in the form of a hot meal and hospitality as St. Paul AME Church in London opens its doors for The Welcome Table.

Each week, approximately 50 people—some regulars, others newcomers—find seats in the church’s community room. They are there for the free, sit-down dinner the program supplies to people in need.

Each week, the kitchen is staffed by a handful of volunteers—some regulars, some newcomers—who set up, serve the meals, and clean up.

Beverly Poindexter, a member of St. Paul AME, is one of the regular volunteers. Nearly every Thursday for the past two years, she has made drinks, warmed rolls in the oven, and helped wherever needed.

“I started by bringing some of my clients here who needed to do community service,” said Poindexter, who works as the community service clerk for London Metropolitan Housing. “While they put in their community service work, I stayed in the kitchen. I really enjoyed it, so I started volunteering myself.”

Laura Johnson, the Welcome Table’s outreach coordinator, depends not only on individuals like Poindexter, but also volunteer groups from other churches in the community. Each participating church signs up to cook, deliver and serve the main dish for four Thursday nights a year. The Welcome Table supplies the drinks, salads and utensils for each meal.

“We’ve got a good rotation of who does what. We’ve really got a good thing going,” said Johnson.

One Thursday night in early April, members of the St. Patrick Church youth group brought in lasagna. They dished up generous portions and carried them to the Welcome Table customers.

“The last time we were here, there was an older gentleman sitting alone who told me this is the only hot meal he gets each week,” said Denise Zimmerman, a St. Patrick youth group leader. “His wife died and he doesn’t have a lot of visitors. I think he comes not only for the food, but also because he is lonely. He made an impression on me that there really is a need in the community.”

Zimmerman said she also has seen teenagers at the Welcome Table go through three plates of food apiece.

“There are children out there who are not getting enough food at home,” she said, noting that the experience of volunteering at St. Paul AME opened not just her eyes, but also those of the teenagers in her youth group.

The Welcome Table is about providing people with nourishment and respect, Johnson said.

“No one goes through a soup line. We treat them like they’re in a five-star restaurant. We serve them,” she said.

The Welcome Table is open from 5 to 7 p.m. every Thursday at St. Paul AME Church, 11 W. Center St., London. For more information, contact outreach coordinator Laura Johnson at 740-845-0175. The Welcome Table is an affiliate of Ministry for Community.

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