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Richfield UMC hosts dinner, looks to connect with community

In the hopes of better serving the northern part of Stanly County, several local churches have partnered with Stanly Community Christian Ministry to serve meals to the hungry.

Richfield United Methodist Church, one of several churches belonging to Crossroads Connections, hosted a hot dog dinner Wednesday to connect with members of the community regarding the planned Community Table.

Along with Richfield UMC, Salem United Methodist Church in Albemarle, Wesley Chapel UMC, Mt. Zion Lutheran Church and Matton’s Grove UMC belong to Crossroads Connections. The group has a number of active ministries, including the Reading Rangers Life Changers book drive which gave every student at Richfield Elementary a new book at the start of the school year.

Crossroads also hosted a fundraising breakfast to help raise money to repair damage, according to Rev. Kris Mares. The group has also hosted prayer times and book discussions online, along with other educational events including nutritional classes, one of which was a diabetes education class in conjunction with the Stanly County Health Department.

Mares, the missional engagement associate for the Uwharrie District of the Western North Carolina Conference (WNCC) of the United Methodist Church, is pastor of Fairview UMC in Denton and works with Crossroads for grant writing and communication as part of her job with the WNCC.

She said the purpose of the Community Table is to provide a hot meal for residents in the area who need it.

“People who never eat with someone…can come and enjoy a meal with other people,” Mares said, which includes “senior citizens who live alone and are lonely.”

There are no restrictions on who can enjoy a meal at the Community Table, she added, saying it will be known as Community Table Richfield and “would be intended for people in this community.”

Along with SCCM Executive Director Heather Kilde, Mares said there are no plans to bus people in from other places to the proposed location at Richfield UMC, nor are there plans to have a homeless shelter with people staying in beds overnight.

“The Biblical mandate is clear that we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit those who are imprisoned,” Mares said. “For those who are followers of Jesus Christ, I believe that mandate is clear.”

Mares added, “there is more to crossroads than this one ministry,” referring to the proposed Community Table.

Regarding the Albemarle Community Table, Kilde explained SCCM has nothing to do with the operation of the Community Inn except for leasing the space to Homes of Hope for $1 per year. The Community Inn only uses the Community Table’s kitchen facility to provide an evening meal privately for people staying at the Inn.

Kilde said the proper procedure for helping the hungry is not to bus people in from another place.

“We provide food to Stanly County residents and to anyone whom (the Community Table) is their nearest available soup kitchen or food pantry…it would be against the principles that we understand (regarding) how food is supposed to be shared in our contracts,” Kilde said.

The Community Table is considered a soup kitchen, she added, only because of the group’s contract with the United States Department of Agriculture from whom SCCM receives food “to serve those in need.”

SCCM does not treat community tables as what comes to mind with the phrase “soup kitchen.” Kilde said the group treats them “more (like) a gathering and sharing environment over a warm meal…we want them to be more than a soup kitchen.”

Kilde said there is no discrimination with the Community Table, meaning those in the Richfield community can get a free meal regardless of income level, race or gender.

The northern end of the county, she said, does not have a soup kitchen, free food pantry or grocery program for those in need. The Albemarle Community Table is the closest, she said, which is approximately a 32-minute round trip for a daily meal (approximately 22 miles).

Using statistics from the website feedingamerica.org, Kilde said approximately 13 percent of Stanly, around 8,180 people, suffer from food insecurity, defined as the “lack of access at times to enough food for an active, healthy life for household members, and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.”

Compounding the problem, she said, is many people who do not qualify for food stamps or other programs still suffer from food insecurity.

Rural communities also make up 63 percent of counties in the United States overall but 87 percent of counties with the highest rates of overall food insecurity, according to numbers from feedingamerica.org; 86 percent of counties with the highest percentages of children at risk for food insecurity are also rural. A total of 2.3 millions households in rural communities face hunger.

Kilde said at Richfield UMC SCCM envisions people walking in and “the first thing you see is the beautiful light streaming into the building. It’s warm and welcoming and inviting.” She said the kitchen needs upgrades but is functional and would allow people to eat off real dishes because it has a dishwasher.

Rev. Rick Clough, pastor of Richfield UMC, reiterated the church’s position Wednesday stating there are no plans to have a homeless shelter or to bus people in to the Community Table.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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