Every Friday Centenary’s Walk-In Ministry offers a hot lunch. With high unemployment rates and the ever increasing number of people without a home or regular meals, we are now serving between 180 and 250 people every week. Some of the food comes from the Central Virginia Food Bank where we are able to purchase staple items at a reasonable cost for the meal preparation. Most of the food used for the meals is obtained through the Food Bank’s Virginia Tables Enabler Program in which certain Food Lion and Panera Bread stores provide food that has reached its “sell by” date at no cost. The gleaned food provides wonderful hot meals while using food that would otherwise be thrown away.
Our church staff provides some support, but the program relies on a volunteer coordinator, as well as 16 to 20 other volunteers each week. Many of the volunteers come from other Richmond District churches who commit to sending a team every month or every other month. These churches currently include: Asbury UMC, Bon Air UMC, Beulah UMC, Forest Grove UMC, and Providence UMC. We also hire 7 to 10 part-time people each week (recruited from the guests we serve) for a minimum wage salary to help with the set-up and clean-up of the Fellowship Hall and kitchen, plus an off-duty police officer to provide security during the meal time.
In 1980 Centenary United Methodist Church joined with its ecumenical partners in the Downtown Community Ministry to respond to the growing street population with the creation of a feeding program. The program continues today with the 6 downtown churches each providing a noontime meal on a different day of the week.