Cooking and caring go hand in hand at the First United Presbyterian Church of West Pittston, Pennsylvania.
For the past 15 years, the nine members of the church's Board of Deacons have prepared a hot, nutritious meal for area homeless men at least once or twice each year.
The meal, one of the church's many outreach efforts, is performed with other area churches, civic organizations and VISION Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides services for homeless men in the Wyoming Valley.
"Two of our neighboring churches are among the 20 congregations that provide space for the shelter on a rotating basis, usually one week at a time," explains Rev. Jim Thyren, the church's pastor.
The men are transported from VISION's drop-in center to the host church around dinner time. The deacons rotate with other service organizations to provide the meal for shelter residents on each of the seven nights. The men stay overnight at the host church and then are returned to the drop-in center the next morning.
"The men enjoy hearty meals such as one-dish casseroles, stews, chili, baked ham and chicken," says Carol Ferguson, a deacon for four years. One entree that was a big hit was Meat Loaf for a Mob found on the Taste of Home Web site.
"We received rave reviews," Carol says. "Some of the men said, 'This is the best meat loaf I've ever tasted.' "Other main dishes that were well received were Slumgullion, a Spanish rice casserole, and Swedish Meatballs, using a recipe from Rev. Thyren. "My grandparents were Swedish," he says. "While my grandmother's recipe is long gone, our family has been using this recipe for more than 40 years."
Each meal is accompanied by side dishes, bread or rolls and dessert.
The deacons handle all aspects of the meal from start to finish. They develop a menu, do the shopping, recruit additional help if needed, prepare the food, transport it to the host church, serve the meal and help clean up. The number of men served ranges from 30 to just over 50.
"They've been very appreciative when they get a home-cooked meal," Thyren says. "And they especially like the variety."
Two crowd-pleasing recipes are Rev. Thyren’s Swedish Meatballs and Taste of Home’s Meat Loaf for a Mob.
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