For over 50 years, four+ churches partner in food ministry

Written by Natalie Beglen

preparing lunch

Members/Friends of La Grange First prepare lunch with will be served at Chicago First

It takes a village. This statement has rung true for the past 50 plus years as several Presbyterian groups have joined forces together to prepare and serve weekly meals hosted at Chicago First Presbyterian Church.

In the late 1960’s, a group of young moms from La Grange First Presbyterian Church planted this seed and this lunch ministry program, Food for Life, has continued to blossom and nurture those in need of a warm lunch and friendly smile. Often, it has been fondly referred to as First to First.

Currently, three churches, La Grange First, Presbyterian Church of Western Springs and Clarendon Hills Community Presbyterian Church, along with an international spouses group from McCormick Seminary, prepare and serve lunch to about 100 guests on their assigned Tuesday each month at Chicago First. Other Presbyterian churches have also been involved throughout the years as well.

About a dozen members of La Grange First gather once a month on a Monday evening to prepare the meal which is served the following morning. Most months one smells the aroma of onions and sausage simmering for the mostaccioli. All ages are involved whether sautéing, chopping carrots or creating treat bags of candy. Marjorie Sutton who coordinates the church’s volunteer efforts is most pleased with the generosity during the holidays. She said, “Our church members donate and prepare a nice meal with turkey or ham and all the side dishes to serve for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. It is our pleasure to provide these extra special meals as part of this feeding program.”

Rob Worley, Director of Language Resource and Writing Center at McCormick Seminary, coordinates the meal cooked, served, and funded by Rob and the spouses group of international students on the first Tuesday of every month. He describes it as, “a lovely and noisy time with little children running around the kitchen and hall, people chopping and stirring and opening cans and tasting sauces and drinking coffee and talking about all kinds of things and washing dishes.” He commented, “We feel like we are a family cooking a meal for our extended family.”

One of the lunches served at Chicago First by Clarendon Hills Community

One of the lunches served at Chicago First by Clarendon Hills Community

Clarendon Hills Community became involved with Food for Life about 15 years ago when Vicki Schranz joined their church after volunteering at La Grange First. Vicki commented, “One of the nicest things about this program is the Monday night food preparation. It’s a very special place with a loyal group of ladies that eagerly come once a month to help in the kitchen, catch up with one another, and occasionally have a fun dinner out. The multi-generational connections and friendships that have been made in the church kitchen while preparing these meals is what makes the program so special at our church.”

Western Springs is not sure how long they have been involved with this Food for Life program, though Mary Jo Blough, who is their current coordinator, estimates it as 40 plus years. They have various teams set up to help; shopper person, cooking team, and server team. The meal, typically chili mac with peaches and beans, is prepared at the church on Tuesday mornings and then delivered and served downtown. When asked why she remains involved, she replied, “I’ve always had a strong sense that we each have an obligation to take care of those not as fortunate.”

This article was originally published on page 8 of the November 2014 Our Common Ministry, the presbytery’s newsletter. Download the complete issue.

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