2023 March 7, Tuesday
BlairToday Staff Writer
The headline is, admittedly, a little “click-baity”. Sortof.
It’s true, if somewhat hyperbolic. The headline from a “real” online newspaper might be, “First Lutheran Church Serves Meals on Wednesdays.” Which, also accurate, might not get you here.
Some people in Blair need what First Lutheran offers. If the proverbial “one person” gets the word, then, my mission is accomplished. If all you read is the next paragraph, that’s good enough (although, I hope you’ll read the entire article!)
First Lutheran Church in Blair, Nebraska, will make and deliver to you a meal each Wednesday evening. There are “no strings attached.” Anyone. They will drive to you, with a meal, to feed you and your family if you need it. All you have to do is contact Erika Cada by phone or text at 402-533-0918. If you need a meal, or if you know someone that needs a meal, stop reading, and call Erika now.
Now, too, I hope you’ll read the whole story…
I was raised, primarily, Southern Baptist. One part of my church experience was “Wednesday Night Supper.” That’s where the church prepared meals, freely-offered (or, you could donate), to anyone who came. It was a great time to sit, enjoy a meal, and spend time with folks at the church in a casual setting. The lack of enthusiasm I felt Sunday mornings was equaled with my enjoyment of Wednesday evening meals.
I began to see posts Erika Cada (Director of Children’s and Youth Ministries at First Lutheran Church) makes on Facebook about the meal service First Lutheran Church offers (probably back in 2020 or 2021). The first few times I did not take notice. They seemed “out of the blue,” and not part of a regular service. And, then, as years passed, it struck me: Erika continues to post. They must be a regular thing.
I contacted Erika on Facebook to ask what the service was about. (By “service,” I don’t mean “sermon,” I mean, the process they went through each week to prepare, and SERVE the meals.) I also asked Erika if my wife and I could have a meal delivered to us – to which Erika let me know first, “yes,” and second there was nothing more we needed to do. Just ask and they would deliver a meal to us.
My wife and I did not need a free meal. It was easy for us to enjoy the time together without the need to cook. It was a gift we were happy to receive last Wednesday. I would have no shame in asking if we did need the meal, though.
First Lutheran has the heart to help people, and that’s something we may all need. I thank God for Erika Cada and the work she and First Lutheran does. (Consider, during a time when people in Blair were huddled at home – maybe you, too – afraid of Covid, Erika and others at First Lutheran, continued to do what they believe God wanted them to do: Help people in need.)
Here are questions I asked Erika about the “Mid Week Meal” service at First Lutheran:
1) What does First Lutheran do, with meals, each Wednesday for people in Blair?
“We prepare and serve approximately 200-225 individuals each Wednesday night in Blair and the surrounding area. Each individual receives a hot entree, a fruit, and a baked good.”
2) Why does First Lutheran do this?
“When Covid shut everything down in March, 2020, there was immediately a concern for families whose children couldn’t receive school lunch, for the elderly that couldn’t leave their homes, for folks who lost jobs and couldn’t put food on the table, and more. So I just decided we had to do something to serve our community, and the pickup/delivery style Wednesday night meal began the following week. We were shocked by the numbers, and we did our best to keep up. As Covid subsided, the numbers did not drop that much. It was then that we knew this had to be an ongoing service for the community – not because of a health-related shutdown but because there is a legitimate and ongoing food insecurity issue in our community.”
3) Who is the type of person who receives the meals?
“We serve elderly folks who are still in their homes but can’t cook much, we serve families who are food insecure, we serve single people who get tired of cooking for one, we serve folks who can’t get a well rounded meal on the table each night, we serve some folks who live in an assisted living facility and love a home cooked meal once in a while, we serve busy families who need a night off from the kitchen but can’t afford to eat out, we feed ALL people in ALL situations.”
4) What are the biggest obstacles the church faces?
“Funding and volunteers – both of these go in spurts, and we’re blessed to be in a good spot right now for both. However, we can always use more drivers to have a better rotation.”
5) What are a few surprises about this meal service you think people would be interested to hear?
“It costs approximately $500 to feed 200 people each week. That equals $26,000 yearly, and we are fully funded by donations and grants. It takes the hands of about 20 volunteers each week to feed 200 people each week. There are 7 different delivery routes each week – each route has approximately 7 locations, and one route is at one apartment complex. We have only cancelled 3 times since March 18, 2020 – all due to weather/concerning the safety of our drivers.”
6) What advice to you have for anyone in Blair who has a heart to help others this way?
“Contact me!! There are a variety of ways to volunteer, you can donate financially thru the church website, www.firstlutheranblair.org, you can sign up to bring baked goods via this link: https://signup.com/go/hfewWuF “
“There are no strings attached to this meal. We do not ask for anything other than a name for the order, # of meals, and address if being delivered. Our motto is ‘Give what you can, receive what you need.’ Unfortunately, there are a lot of people receiving the meal who cannot afford to give. That is why I have begun seeking grants in order to continue to offer the meal without a fee. My number is 402-533-0918. Anyone can text or call me for more info or to sign up. I also post the menu on Facebook each weekend for the following Wednesday so folks can also message me.”Erika Cada
Erika also told me of the stigma attached to receiving a meal like this each week. There are those who would either “look down” on someone for it, or may need it, but be ashamed to accept the help. If you are in either of these camps, please stop. Don’t be that way.
I’ve had more money in my life than most people I know. I’ve been more broke than most people I know. Now, I’m somewhere in the middle. This is not a confession, just the reality of life. It ebbs and flows. Up and down. Rain falls on the “just” and the “unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) If a free meal once week won’t help you, be thankful, not prideful. If you need the help..
…BE THANKFUL, NOT PRIDEFUL.
Pride goes both ways. Some are too proud to admit it is because of the Grace of God they are not in need, and some are too proud to admit God’s Grace shines on them through the efforts of people like Erika Cada and First Lutheran Church.
If you need a meal, or know someone who does, call or text Erika now: 402-533-0918