Audrey Payne sometimes doesn’t have enough money left to buy food after she covers the copays on the 13 prescription medications she takes. So she sometimes goes to food pantries to get supplies if she has gas money.
However, on Tuesday, she was able to have a full, free meal at Calvary Christian Church’s monthly community meal.
Calvary is one of several local churches that provide free meals to those in need of food and sometimes fellowship in the area.
Payne, 73, of Collinsville, is on medical disability, she said as she ate lasagna, salad and trimmings at the church.
She was accompanied at the meal by her sister, Brenda Eames, 59, of Martinsville, and Eames’ 8-year-old granddaughter, Brittany Eames.
Brenda Eames, who also is medically disabled, said of the meal: “It’s from God, and it’s a blessing.” She praised the church and volunteers for putting the meal on.
About 60 people attended Tuesday’s meal, and about 20 volunteers were involved, according to “Rev. Mike” Carrow, the church’s pastor.
It was Calvary Christian’s 79th free community meal. The first was on Jan. 20, 2004. From 2004 through 2012 (ending with the 77th meal), the church served about 6,200 individual meals, and monetary contributions to the free meal fund totaled $12,262.41, according to the Jan. 15 church newsletter and Carrow.
“This does not include the grocery items and the approximately 600 desserts that (were) donated. We also have 12-15 workers to help with serving and clean-up at each meal,” the newsletter added.
Pat Featherstun, one of the organizers of the meal, said Calvary Christian began the program because so many people were unemployed in Martinsville. Christ Episcopal Church began offering free community meals before Calvary Christian did, she noted.
Featherstun, one of the meal’s cooks, was busily working in the kitchen during the meal. She estimated she will have put in about 16 hours in this month’s meal.
“I feel like we’re helping people,” she said.
Gladys Hairston and sister Glenda Hairston, who live in Spencer and attend Christian View Missionary Baptist Church, have been volunteering at Calvary Christian’s free monthly meals for more than a year. Their dad, Fred Hairston, who lives in Preston and attends Mountain View Baptist in Preston, has been volunteering at Calvary Christian’s monthly meal for several months, Gladys Hairston said.
“It’s a form of ministry to people. As a Christian, a requirement is to show love to people in different ways,” she said.
Carrow calls the meal a miracle.
“For this small church to be able to accomplish this good deed for God is a small miracle in itself,” he said. The church’s average worship attendance is in the mid-30s, and the majority them are elderly, he said.
Carrow said there is a great need to help feed people without jobs, people on fixed income who may have limited money for food and others in need. In addition to people in need of food, some elderly people come to Calvary’s meals for the fellowship, Carrow said.
Calvary Christian Church, 515 Mulberry Road, Martinsville, provides its free community meal on the third Tuesday of the month from September through May, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. City residents who need transportation may call 632-4577 on the day of the meal.
On Tuesday night, in addition to lasagna and salad, the meal included fruit, baked desserts and beverages.
Broad Street Christian Church
Broad Street Christian Church provides a free community meal during the months Calvary Christian does not, according to the Rev. Clint Spivey, pastor of Broad Street Christian at 106 Broad St., Martinsville.
Broad Street Christian’s meal is from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month during June, July and August. People who live within several miles of the church and need transportation may call the church at 632-2609, according to church officials.
Spivey said on average nearly 100 people attend the monthly meal at Broad Street Christian and 10-12 volunteers are involved. He said there probably is a need for more churches to provide free meals, but an even bigger need may be to address the root causes of hunger, such as the need for better jobs, education, remediation and managing family budgets.