RADFORD – Back in January 2013, Unity Christian Church on Tyler Avenue began serving a free weekly meal to anyone who wanted it.
At first, attendance was about five people each week.
Now, attendance has grown tenfold.
“We started with five people eating on Saturdays in 2013 to now 50 to 60 people,” said Reverend Wendy Wilson, pastor of Unity Christian. “Each guest gets a a to go box as well so we serve around 100-120 meals every Saturday.
Teams of volunteers from Unity rotate week to wk with teams of volunteers from other churches to make the weekly meals happen.
“We have teams from our church as well as other churches and organizations in the community,” said Wilson. “Each team has at least five members up to 15. Other churches and organizations that serve in this ministry with us are Christ Church, RU Wesleyan, First Baptist, Pulaski Jaycess, Oasis Church, Grove United Methodist, Central Methodist, Kiwanis,and a number of RU students and service organizations on campus also participate.”
“Every week a different team serves,” she continued. “Some teams serve once a month, some every six weeks, some twice a year – it just depends on the teams and their availability.”
Wilson says this an important outreach program for the church.
“Jesus said, ‘If you love me, feed my sheep,’’ Wilson said. “We take his command to feed his sheep literally and want to make certain that the people in our community have access to a warm home cooked meal on the weekends when Daily Bread is closed. This allows are neighbors to have something to eat seven days a week. Not only are we feeding people who are physically hungry, but those who hunger for fellowship and company as well.”
In fact, the Daily Bread lunch program has boosted attendance of the Saturday Community Table meals. When the Daily Bread was without a place to serve meals while waiting for renovations at their new location, the meals were served at Unity. Attendance for the Community Table meals had dwindled for a time prior to that.
“When we served the meals here, it let people know we were here,” said Unity volunteer Cameron Altizer. “That really brought it back to where it should be.”
Wilson said this program is one of the many ways her church serves God.
“One of our mottos at Unity Christian Church is, ‘We serve God by serving others,’” she said. “Community Table is one way that we can serve people with basic needs”.
“The meals are served on china and most of the time we bring the plates and drinks to those who come to eat,” she said. “We want everyone to feel welcome and special. We invite the community to come eat with us and or serve with us. There are no rules or qualifications to eat with us. If you are hungry for food or friendship come and eat.”
The meals are served every Saturday from 4 -5 p.m. at the church, located on Tyler Avenue.