The menus change because the meals are donated by parish members and other benefactors. On Jan. 22, the menu consisted of chili, fruit, beverages and a variety of desserts. About 60 people braved the icy weather to join about 20 volunteers who prepared, set-up and served the meal. They also clean up. The guests go home with the leftovers.
Amy Hooyman and her three children volunteer at nearly every meal. “It’s nice to see we’re giving something back to the community,” she said. “The wider community, not just the church. I really enjoy it.”
Her daughter, Breanna, agreed. “It’s nice for people who can’t afford a meal or for those who just want to get out of the house.” Cleanup is the mother-daughter team’s specialty. “We’re the ultimate dishwashers,” she added.
Maggie Hohmberger has been serving for the last three or four meals. She brings her two grandsons with her. “If I consider not coming they ask me, ‘Grandma, when is the next meal,'” she said.
For Kathy Jarolimek, serving the meal is another way to get more involved in her church. “This is a first step. I already teach religious education on Wednesdays. That’s where I heard this is a good time,” she said. The year-old Sunday Suppers is “a ministry of taking care of our neighbors,” organizer Patty Vande Voort wrote in a recent Sunday bulletin. “We offer a warm meal and companionship to our community by serving Sunday suppers. We have served over 1,000 meals with over 240 individuals … sharing their gifts and talents with our neighbors.”
Those who attend will attest to the friendly atmosphere, delicious meals and good companionship. “It breaks the winter doldrums,” said one attendee, who saw the notice at St. Joseph’s Food Pantry.
“I like to get out with people — meet people,” said Ruthie Vosters, who lives in Appleton and is a member of St. Pius X Parish. She comes with fellow parishioner Elroy Lefeber, who also enjoys the company and good cooking.
Candles and flowers on each of the tables, which seat 16, greet guests. When the Packers are playing, a TV is set up so no one has to miss a touchdown. Alexandra Reimer shares her musical talent by softly playing the piano in the background. “I like playing for them,” she said. “It feels good to share. I’m doing something nice for everyone.”
If you want to go or to volunteer: The free meal is served at 4:30 p.m. at Holy Spirit School gym, 614 E. Kimberly Ave., Kimberly. Volunteers gather about 3 p.m.
Upcoming dates are March 25, April 22 and May 27.
For more information, contact Patty Vande Voort at the Parish Office at (920) 788-7640.
The meal opens with a prayer, led by Andrew Reimer, another of the organizers. During the meal, he goes around and asks if anyone has a special prayer intention and adds them to his book. It is a nondenominational prayer service.
Sheri Treu, a third member of the organizing team, said some of the volunteers return week after week, but often there are new volunteers primarily from the parish. One family a month usually donates the food, she said. When kids show up to help, they are each assigned a job. Some take care of the beverage cart. Some set up the tables, putting out bread and butter, salt and pepper and other amenities.
Others are asked to help people through the food line by carrying plates and helping people get seated. Others greet people as they come in. In January, because of the ice on the parking lot, some of the young men went out and lent a hand or an arm so no one slid on the ice.
Kobussen Buses, with funding from the Catholic Foundation, provides a free shuttle service to Golden Ventures Apartments and Round House Manor, both in Kaukauna; John Fischer Manor, Randall Court Apartments and Buchanan Cottages in Appleton, and Hallmark Place, Kimberly.
Mom and Pop Bakery in Kimberly provides the sweets; Culver’s donated cups for the tables, and St. Joseph Food Pantry provides the bread, she said.
“Last year when we started, I thought how will we ever get the word out. In the first six months, our advertising was limited and we had small groups. But it has grown. Now, it has not dropped below 60 to 80 people.”
Vande Voort estimates that one meal costs about $250 a month. Parishioners can purchase and prepare the food, or they can make a financial donation and other volunteers will prepare it.
Meal sponsors have included Christ the Rock Church, Xavier High School Boys Soccer Team, Appleton Christian School, Fox Valley Fellowship Church, the St. Bernadette Parish (Appleton) Social Concerns Committee, The Mariner, Bob Loderbauer Auctioneer and Darboy Ever 4H, St. John Nepomucene Parish (Little Chute) Social Concerns Committee and several anonymous donors from Holy Spirit families.
“We’re excited,” Vande Voort said. “It’s a ministry that gives as much to our volunteers as to those we serve. As people leave, there are sometimes tears in their eyes. We definitely made a difference. This is people sharing their talents. We’ve never had a lack of volunteers. … People are very giving.”