Welcome to the table
"One of the most basic needs is having something to eat — this is a community need, to nourish our bodies," said Jack Knoespel, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church on North Main Street in Rutherfordton. "What better way to reach out and support the people in our community and meeting this genuine need by providing a free home-made, nutritious meal?"
Beginning Monday, Sept. 9, three Rutherfordton churches will partner together to present Welcome Table Rutherfordton, an opportunity for area individuals and families to enjoy a free and healthy meal joined with fellowship.
"We felt God stirring among us and calling us to do this," Knoespel said. "We have responded to this call and are motivated and excited."
Welcome Table Rutherfordton will be provided every Monday from 5-6:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Center at First United Methodist Church. The entrance is at the back of the church and each Monday signs will be positioned at the church on North Main Street and Toms Street, displaying directions to parking and the dining center. The meal will be dine-in only.
There are at least 10 other churches in western North Carolina currently operating welcome tables. To help fund Welcome Table Rutherfordton, First United Methodist Church received a $3,500 grant from the Dr. Frank Logan Charitable Trust, an organization that advocates community efforts and projects.
"There is a concern in this county, being in an area where a lot of children receive backpacks as part of the Backpack Program and where the elderly are one of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to meals," Knoespel said. "With the Welcome Table, area churches and civic groups of Rutherfordton can help fill another gap."
Members of First United Methodist Church, St. Francis Episcopal Church and First Baptist Church of Rutherfordton will take turns every Monday evening to prepare the meals, in an effort to provide outreach and draw neighbors closer together and build a stronger community.
"It isn't just one single church or entity providing the Welcome Table, it's a community effort involving area churches and civic groups," said Glenn "Bud" Deck, a volunteer at First United Methodist Church. "There are no requirements to enjoy a meal — you just show up and eat. There will also be a donation box present during the meal."
On Monday evening, Welcome Table Rutherfordton held a trial run with more than 100 people in attendance enjoying home-made spaghetti, hand-tossed salad, fresh bread and desserts.
"I think this Welcome Table will be a real great thing," said Joan King, a member of First United Methodist Church who helped prepare Monday's meal. "I'm thankful we're doing it and we have a great facility for it."
Other churches and civic groups are encouraged to join the Welcome Table program by contacting First United Methodist Church at 828-287-3704. Those interested may also call St. Francis Episcopal Church at 828-287-3888 or First Baptist Church at 828-286-9074.
"I have learned over the years that we don't know what each other is really going through," Knoespel said. "Our hope is that people from our churches will become friends and be able to enjoy a meal together."