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Nourishment of a soul

Local church continues its community luncheons amidst pandemic

St. John Lutheran Church pastor Eric Edwards hands bagged lunches to a man during the church’s Shared Blessings community luncheon. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

EAST LIVERPOOL — Although everything else at the St. John Lutheran Church has been temporarily suspended, a small contingent of members still spend a few hours a month providing nourishment to area residents.

The church’s mask-clad pastor spent two hours Monday in the heat, passing out “to go” boxes containing tacos, corn salsa, fruit and cake to drive-up recipients outside the Hill Boulevard church’s front doors.

The Shared Blessings community luncheon usually is a sitdown luncheon, where people gathered once a month to enjoy the companionship, Pastor Eric Edwards explained.

Sisters Jody Green and Mary Jo Wolfe manned the kitchen preparing the boxes for Edwards.

“We are not your traditional soup kitchen,” Edwards said, as vehicles briskly made their way up the hill to retrieve their meals. “A lot say that they don’t necessarily come for the food, but just to sit with their friends. In the case of the hungry, it is our hope that one day they don’t show up – only because it means that they aren’t in need anymore.”

St. John’s clientele is more like the “food insecure” and lonely.”

This is the church’s 10th year of doing meals.

They also house an emergency food pantry.

However, for Edwards and the rest of the church’s congregation, Shared Blessings offers the lunch on the last Monday of the month, as by then people are either out of food stamps or running out of food.

It is less like a meal for some. Pastor Edwards notes, “We have a group of regulars that show up for lunch, but it is more like a family. We were shooting more for a place where people can develop relationships.”

“If we can feed a meal that is one thing, but it is really special when we can actually feed a soul,” he added.

Edwards explained although he sees the same faces driving up, for many it is too painful not to have the companionship amidst the pandemic directives. He also misses his congregation of 110 and the normal.

They all decided that Shared Blessings was something that they couldn’t sacrifice, even if meant adapting it to the current situation. “If we cannot do stuff like (Shared Blessings), then we might as well be a country club.”

When contacted Tuesday after the distribution, Edwards confirmed that they served 75 the day before – more than expected, crediting use of social media to spread the word.

They had barely enough food prepared, he noted.

While the church has discontinued most of all of its in-person offerings, twice a week they do take to Facebook and offer worships Wednesdays and Sundays.

“I am really grateful for all the churches who continue to step up and serve the East Liverpool area community. It is so important especially at this time,” he concluded.

For more information about the Shared Blessings lunch program, call 330-385-5500. The next distribution is August 24, but usually it falls on the last Monday of the month except when a month has five Mondays.

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