I walked into Center Lake Pavilion Wednesday night not quite knowing what to expect. “The Gathering” is such a vague description after all.
On the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month, Fellowship Missions hosts what they have termed The Gathering. It is just that – a gathering. Depending on the night, there are anywhere from 60 to 300 people who gather there.
Treasure Hood, who helps organize the twice monthly event, says The Gathering is a free hot, home-cooked meal for the community. “We see a lot of elderly, homeless, Cardinal Center clients. But it’s for the community; whoever wants to come,” said Hood.
For just about two years now, Fellowship Missions has hosted the meals, which are prepared by volunteers from food that is mostly donated. Some is purchased from the Food Bank, but mostly it is donations and the time of volunteers which make the meals possible.
On this particular Wednesday, sloppy joe’s and mac and cheese was on the menu, along with oranges and other offerings such as carrots and celery. Again, all of the food was donated.
Also on that Wednesday, members of the Blood Bought Bikers #1116 of the Christian Motorcyclists Association were on hand to volunteer their help. From refilling drinks for the guests to making sure the food was ready to be served, the volunteers are what really make The Gathering so successful.
“It takes at least 15 people to make it run,” said Hood, noting that on any given night they usually have 20 to 30 volunteers who show up to help prepare and serve the food, and even stay to clean up after. Hood said any group or even individuals are welcome to volunteer and The Gathering has been honored to have elementary school students, youth groups and churches bring in volunteers. She added, “The (Blood Bought Bikers) are actually here quite often.”
Stella Ward is among the guests who come to the free community dinners twice each month. The single mom brings her three young boys and said the meals are good, but it’s also about being able to feed her children. “It’s really good for the community,” she explained, adding that she has been out of work for four years but continues to look for a job. “It’s really nice to be able to come here and visit with people, too.”
Tyler Mulldune, 23, is another regular to The Gathering events. “It’s good for the community and it’s free which really helps the struggling families. Two hundred and fifty-four dollars in food stamps doesn’t go very far,” he explained. Mulldune, who has been diagnosed with a learning disability, receives Social Security of $710 each month, “but rent is $550 and that doesn’t leave hardly anything. This (The Gathering) is really good and everybody knows everybody.”
Bill Smith and his daughter, A.J. Smith, were also at the meal on Wednesday. Smith lost his job due to health reasons more than 10 years ago and, on a fixed income, the free meals are beneficial. “We’ve coming for a couple of years. It also gives us something to do to get out of the house and we enjoy the people,” he said.
The Gathering is held the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, starting at 6 p.m. Second helpings are served at 7 p.m.
To donate to Fellowship Missions for The Gathering, monetary donations may be made online, or sent to P.O. Box 382, Winona Lake, IN 46590. Food donations are also accepted for the meals. For additional information, call Fellowship Missions at 574-268-9555.