Hearty lunches of love

Susan Swanson serves plates of food Wednesday at Silverdale Lutheran Church as part of the Hearty Meals program geared toward lower income citizens. - Jesse Beals/staff photo
Susan Swanson serves plates of food Wednesday at Silverdale Lutheran Church as part of the Hearty Meals program geared toward lower income citizens.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

With a global financial crisis upon us, it can sometimes be difficult to buy groceries.

That’s where Hearty Meals and similar programs come in handy.

Silverdale Lutheran Church’s Hearty Meals program provides hot lunches to whomever stops by the church off of Ridgetop Boulevard from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesdays.

“It’s kind of geared to the lower income folks, but it’s open to anyone,” said Hearty Meals volunteer coordinator Audrey Ebeling.

Hearty Meals started in 1994 when a few Silverdale Lutheran Church members decided the program was needed in the area. Hearty Meals receives funding from several sources including United Way of Kitsap County. The church also provides money and hosts fundraisers for the program.

Ebeling said between 60 and 80 people come to Silverdale Lutheran Church for lunch on Wednesdays. She said they serve nutritious meals including fresh salad, rolls, fruit and everything from tuna casserole to teriyaki chicken, all made by the volunteers who help out each Wednesday.

Ebeling said people of all ages volunteer to prepare, serve and clean up after meals on Wednesdays. Some people even bring their children to help with Hearty Meals.

“We’ve been very fortunate. We form such close bonds with one another,” said Karen Arper, another Hearty Meals volunteer coordinator. “We get so much out of it.”

Arper said Hearty Meals volunteers expected to see an increase in attendance since many people are struggling in these economic times, but that hasn’t been the case.

“It just seems right now that people need more and we’re not seeing the numbers we thought we’d see,” she said.

“We would like to see more people,” Ebeling added. “We really do want word to get out and more people to come.”

Arper said some people come to Hearty Meals not only for a good meal, but for good conversation.

“I think it’s a social thing. Some people come by 11 a.m. to sit around and talk and drink coffee,” she said.

Ron Johnson, of Bremerton, takes Kitsap Transit every Wednesday to eat lunch with friends at Silverdale Lutheran Church. He has used the program off and on for five years.

“It’s great,” he said. “I don’t have much money and I live on a fixed income.”

Johnson said he gets a limited amount of food stamps each month and programs like Hearty Meals really help him stretch his resources.

“It’s a very good place, very nice,” he said.

Johnson said the lunches are great, but the Hearty Meals volunteers really make the program special.

“These people are really friendly and cordial,” he said. “I’m kind of poor and they don’t treat me like a second-class citizen.”

The program serves no meals when Central Kitsap schools are closed or delayed due to weather or the Wednesdays before Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

Hearty Meals volunteers will serve a Thanksgiving meal from noon to 1 p.m. this Wednesday, Nov. 19.

For more information about Hearty Meals, contact Silverdale Lutheran Church at (360) 692-9263.

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