The Neighborhood Table
We found that while people had extended family and friends in our community area, they oftentimes had little knowledge and contact with their neighbors. Outside of an annual street dance and some summer local music groups, there was not that much to bring people together. Rio also has a large percentage of folks living on a fixed income.
We also recognize that food has always been part of the human story. “To break bread together” wields the power of a meal to gather people for friendship and laughter. Just maybe, we could weave some relationship fibers amongst the Rio community through the power of food. This led us to form the ministry – “The Neighborhood Table” – a free meal offered to anyone in the community – the last Monday of each month. The program was developed by Rio Redeemer Lutheran Church, however we wanted to broaden the effort and participation throughout the community. We started in July at an outdoor pavilion, then received the cooperation from the middle/high and elementary schools to use their facilities to get through the fall/winter period.
Then, through a healthy ecumenical relationship with the other churches in and surrounding our community, other congregations have taken on the sponsorship of the meal, and we also have interest from local businesses and others in the area to provide sponsorship or assistance. The Rio township waived fees for the pavilion; the schools are letting us use their facilities at no fee; the local paper is giving us free advertising, and we have received support and donations from other businesses in the area.
At the first meal we served 65, and by the third meal, we have eclipsed 100 people served with the fourth meal coming soon. We’re seeing a great deal of conversation and laughter from both the adults and children and are looking forward to this program continuing to grow, and just maybe bring some added joy and fellowship in our small village.