For the past couple of years Ed has been helping at a community dinner in Silverton. What began as the third Wednesday commitment morphed into weekly last fall.
The village we live in is small, just over 300 people, a small convenience store, the Friends Church and the Holy Rosary Catholic church five miles up in the hills, a Post Office and elementary school. We go to Silverton, and occasionally Salem or Portland, for gas, shopping and all the other errands that can’t be met in this small place.
Silverton is an average American town with local colors and characters, most of them decent and hardworking. The economic downturn hit here as it did across America. People who’d once had secure jobs, a house mortgage that seemed manageable, kids growing up in a relatively safe, small town community suddenly found themselves out of a job with no prospects and never ending bills. Seeing there were many hungry people trying to make a dollar go as far as possible (how many remember buying a soda along with a good sized candy bar for the sum total of .15 cents?) a couple of the churches in town decided to offer weekly meals with one church taking Monday nights, the other, the Christian Church (henceforth CC), Wednesday night. The first week about 50 people showed up and the people who organized, cooked, served and cleaned felt that it went very smoothly and they looked forward to the next week.
Three weeks later they were feeding over 100 people and the good folks at CC realized they couldn’t do this alone so they put out a call for help at the next monthly ministerial meeting. A good thing they brought others in to help for in no time three hundred people were being fed every week. Several churches signed up for the once monthly rotation which is how Ed began to serve. It wasn’t long before he found his favorite spot: serving the milk and water.
This year they’re averaging close to 500 people with over 525 for the Thanksgiving and Christmas Wednesday dinners.
Every one is welcome, no questions asked, no money expected. There is a donation basket at the last table but no one says anything about it or directs one’s attention to it. There is no preaching or evangelizing. The pastor of the CC is always present mingling in an unobnoxous way with the people and sitting to chat at various tables. People move through a serving line where servers put generous portions on each plate (yes, they use real plates and flatware). Three dessert tables line another wall with the portions served on smaller plates.
I took Feather and Gus both weeks they were visiting, so they could see Grandpa serving and we could eat together.
People come to eat but also to socialize and to be a part of a bigger, mixed community. Many senior citizens love this time of gathering and getting some great home cooking.
Yes! It’s all cooked on in the large church kitchen. A regular set of people prepare the food every week, two retired woman who were cooks at the elementary school bake all the bread, even the rolls that were used for the Sloppy Joes. On the Wednesdays when there are mountains of potatoes to peel Ed will go in earlier in the day to help peel them. He loves the camaraderie of the people from the various churches, the easy laughter and joking while working for the common goal of providing a good meal.
Wednesday, after visiting Aurora and Baby Violet I stopped to have supper with the community and sat at the table with several of the cooks. I’m slowly getting to know Ed’s friends there and contemplate helping out other than sending a cake or two, or a couple pans of brownies with Ed every week (I’m known as “The Cake Lady”).
What a delicious meal that evening! The head cook is recuperating from knee replacement surgery, Ed had gone in at noon to help prepare the food. The local, independent grocery store had donated several boxes of vegetables that morning. The cooks looked at that odd assortment of vegetables and wondered what on earth they’d do with it. The chicken for chicken enchiladas was cooked and ready but what does one do with yellow squash, carrots, asparagus and butternut squash. They weren’t stymied for long.
Chop them up and roast them! They spread the chopped veggies onto cookie sheets, drizzled them with olive oil, some salt & pepper and garlic powder and roasted them about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. It was so good that I made it again (minus the butternut) last night for supper from the extra unused squash and asparagus that Ed brought home. I added an onion cut into large wedges and served the roasted vegetables with black bean soup which I’d set soaking then cooking on our wood stove yesterday morning. Warm satisfying meals for cold snowy days.
All day Wednesday huge, heavy flakes drifted down. For a long time the wet ground melted the snow but by afternoon it began accumulating. Driving home, the big flakes drifting in front of the car lights were so pretty. Yesterday morning we woke up to several inches on the ground – we’re only about 300′ above sea level, just up the road the snow still lay on the ground when I went for an early morning walk today. The knowledge that this was a fleeting storm, soon to be followed by more temperate (most likely fickle!) real Spring weather made the snow a delight.