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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Friendship Feast needs a new home

  •      At a recent meeting, members of the local governing body of the Presbyterian Church took an important vote.

         They decided that Aug. 31 would be the last day for Friendship Feast at the church.


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  •      At a recent meeting, members of the local governing body of the Presbyterian Church took an important vote.
         They decided that Aug. 31 would be the last day for Friendship Feast at the church.
         "It was a matter of continuing to pay the utility costs of having them in the building, along with things like workman's comp and payroll taxes that forced us to make the decision," said Penny Alger, moderator of the church's mission and witness committee in an interview at the Globe Monday.
         "We've kept the program going for 12 years, and it was originally only supposed to be for 12 days," Alger said.
         "Friendship Feast is not going to close," said kitchen manager Lois Swonger during the joint interview.
         "I've put it in God's hands," she added.
    A good idea
         Friendship Feast was created in the early winter of 2000 when members of the First Presbyterian Church heard about a man living under a bridge, according to the church's web site.
         As the church discussed what action they could take to help the man, and others like him, someone offered to donate enough money to pay a cook for one week. Food was collected and the first meal was served to seven people two weeks before Christmas.
         By the end of the first week, word had spread and more people were showing up.
         The church acted to keep the meals going for a second week, then another, and Friendship Feast has now become one of the primary missions of the church.
         "I feed anywhere from 100 to 150 people every day," Swonger said.
         Swonger oversees the program with the help of one paid assistant and a long list of volunteers.
         "We have the most wonderful volunteers you could get," Swonger said.
         The volunteers contribute between 70 and 80 hours each week.
         A number of community groups regularly send volunteers, including several churches, youth groups, 4-H, several businesses and Arrowhead West.
         And the community has responded with regular food donations.
         "We get boxes of food from Wal-Mart on a regular basis, along with several other grocery stores and restaurants," Swonger said. "We just get so much food donated — our freezers are always full, but nothing's in there for very long."
         With food donations and monetary donations, the program comes close to breaking even.
         According to information supplied by Alger, the program received $17,468.97 in donations the past year plus an additional $2,417.18 donated by those partaking of the meals.
         "I have five churches that contribute $250 each month now," Swonger said.
         Expenses for salaries, food and supplies totaled $17,145.70.
         The meals are served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
    Page 2 of 2 -      Free will donations are accepted.
    Looking ahead
         "I've been talking to other churches," Swonger said. "And I'm not just looking for another facility, I'm asking for monetary help. I got a $500 check today and several smaller donations."
         Friendship Feast does have some resources that will go with it.
         "They have quite a bit of kitchen equipment that is theirs," Alger said.
         "I just feel very blessed to help people," Swonger said.
         "Sometimes it's not just food. We help with their problems; we pray with them; some of them come in mainly for the fellowship. It's very rewarding."
         Swonger's search for solutions continues. If you would like to help, you may call her at (620) 255-4452.
     
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