PUMC's Community Meals ministry reaches out to the community to help homeless and food-insecure adults and children of Aquidneck Island. This ministry provides GOD's love through our volunteers who prepare and distribute meals and much-needed daily living essentials with compassion.
For many years PUMC has partnered with the Christian Action Center (CAC), who coordinates the monthly Community Meals Calendar. In pre-COVID-19 years, our volunteers served hot dinners indoors at our meal site in Newport, St. Paul's UMC.
The COVID-19 situation drove us to serve Grab&Go bagged meals outdoors at St. Paul's on the first Thursday of every month. Along with serving bagged meals, PUMC distributes toiletries such as toothpaste, shampoo, etc., and cold weather essentials such as socks, hats and gloves. Our volunteers deliver any leftover bagged meals to the McKinney Shelter (Newport) and Lucy's Hearth (Middletown). Any leftover food supply items are donated to the Portsmouth Food Bank.
Since 2021 the PUMC Community Meals ministry responded to an increasing need to help feed individuals and families in transitional housing by delivering additional bagged meals to temporary emergency shelters in Middletown. The costs for the PUMC meals are covered by the PUMC Mission Committee funds (especially donations designated for food relief on Aquidneck Island) and any food relief grants received.
Currently, PUMC Community Meals accomplishes this ministry using a team comprised of four main types of volunteers: 1) a coordinator, 2) volunteers who prepare and pack meals, 3) volunteers who deliver and distribute meals, and 4) a volunteer who manages donations of toiletries and personal care items. The coordinator interacts with the CAC for monthly updates and communicates any special guidelines to volunteers. The coordinator plans for the monthly meals, schedules the necessary volunteers, orders and purchases food/beverages and supplies, sorts bulk order quantities, and provides meal items to the volunteers who prepare and pack meals. The meal preparation volunteers lovingly do the work of making sandwiches and packing bagged meals in their own homes. Our diners often give us great feedback about our delicious meals! On the first Thursday of each month, the transport and distribution volunteers distribute the meals at St. Paul's to the diners. The personal care items manager transports and distributes toiletries etc. that have been donated from PUMC. The heartbeat of this ministry is street-side at St. Paul's, where meals and toiletries are cheerfully distributed by our volunteers with loving hospitality and prayerful caring.
PUMC's Community Meals ministry is a blessing to the community and to the volunteers who join in to help. It is a great opportunity to be active with fellow Christians while doing The LORD's work. The welcome and caring we demonstrate to our diners during Community Meals has gained us many friends over the years, by sharing GOD's love for "our neighbors."