First Friday Lunches Popular
Friday marks the nine-month anniversary of an outreach meal designed not only to feed those in need but to provide financial assistance to the community.
The First Friday Lunch Deal actually got its start last June under the original name “Phat Fridays,” according to Jeremy Fletcher, minister of youth outreach and worship arts at Cito and McConnellsburg United Methodist churches. Started as a way to fund a proposed mission trip, the meals received such a favorable initial response from area residents and business people that it morphed into a monthly event.
“We’ve been really blessed ever since, so we’ve just kept it going,” Fletcher told the “News.”
Aptly named as it occurs the first Friday of every month, First Friday Lunch Deal serves up on average 150 sitdown and carryout meals. Their largest outreach served approximately 180 individuals.
All food is 100 percent donated by members of the sister churches, and the manpower to pull off such a large event is also on a volunteer basis. Around 20 individuals are usually involved in the whole process that begins with circulating a list of needed food items and ends with food preparation getting under way Thursday and into Friday.
This Friday, February 1, starting at 11 a.m., volunteers will serve up a delectable menu at the Mc- Connellsburg United Methodist Church located on the courthouse square. Offering something for everyone, even those with a discerning palate, this month’s meal includes ham potpie, BBQ chipped ham sandwich, vegetable beef soup, butternut squash soup, salad bar, baked potato bar and numerous desserts.
Fletcher refers to the monthly meal as a “humbling” experience for himself and the other volunteers who answer the call to help those in need.
All meals are free, but of course donations are greatly appreciated. All money raised through the generous meal donations is earmarked for the “Outreach Ministries” that funnel the funding to area residents with health conditions and mounting medical bills as well as individuals unable to make ends meet. Outreach funding also includes contributions to missions, to Love’s Closet located at 117 W. Market Street, to scholarships for youths and to outreach events such as the upcoming dramatic presentation of Heaven’s Gates & Hell’s Flames at Cito United Methodist Church February 17-19 nightly at 7 p.m.
The churches’ largest intake to date was last fall when First Friday Lunch Deal pulled in $1,001, which was also coincidentally the month when the largest number of people dined for free. Perhaps the most touching moment, Fletcher said, was one particular month when the church still had $200 leftover after donating funds to an individual. Praying on the matter for further guidance, a timely telephone call several hours later alerted the church of a potential family in need.
This month’s proceeds will benefit Outreach Ministries and area cancer patients.
Fletcher stated the churches and their volunteers are working toward implementing a transportation ministry that will also provide transportation for individuals who are unable to drive, don’t own a vehicle or don’t have sufficient money for gas to attend the First Friday Lunch Deal and worship services. Those interested in receiving transportation outreach or interested in making a donation to First Friday should call 717-485-4815 for assistance.
Hopeful the First Friday Lunch Deal keeps growing, organizers continue to prepare for the future. With plans for expanding the Mc- Connellsburg church through the addition of a gymnasium and fellowship fall in the planning stages, Fletcher concluded the ultimate goal for First Friday would be to fill the new facility with Lunch Deal attendees five years from now.