KAUKAUNA — It wasn’t mana in the desert or a multiplication of loaves and fishes, but the drive-through community meal May 14 sponsored by Kaukauna Catholic Parishes did demonstrate how faith can bring people together to satisfy physical and spiritual hunger.
Approximately 600 meals — each featuring a choice of bratwurst, hot dog, hamburger or a vegetarian salad — were prepared and served by about 20 parish volunteers in the parking lot of St. Katharine Drexel-St. Mary Church. Other volunteers helped cars maneuver through the four serving lanes divided by traffic cones.
“It has been a wonderful opportunity to do what we can to raise the spirits of people in the city of Kaukauna and (in) Hollandtown in a very simple way,” said Fr. Don Everts, pastor of Kaukauna Catholic Parishes, who took orders and handed bagged meals to guests.
Volunteers wore masks and gloves as they directed traffic, took food orders and handed the meals to drivers.
It was the second week in a row the parish sponsored a community meal, said Gloria Schuh, parish discipleship coordinator, “We had 52 jars of spaghetti sauce and we were like, ‘How can we use this?’” said Schuh. She explained that the 52 jars were intended to be used by middle school students to make lasagna for an area homeless shelter.
With a donation from Catholic Financial Life, the spaghetti sauce was used for spaghetti and meatballs at the parish’s inaugural community meal, held May 7. Nearly 400 people were fed.
“People are out of work and they need a good meal and budgets are stretched thin,” said Fr. Everts. “That’s one of the reasons” for having the drive-through meal in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But the other big reason is, people are locked in homes and they just need a chance to get out just a little, but safely,” he told The Compass. “So we wanted to have a safe way to lift up our community, to raise our spirits and say, ‘We are here. We will walk with each other.’”
As a community event, the drive-through meal not only involved parishioners. The mayor of Kaukauna, Anthony Penterman, helped serve meals on May 7 and area businesses have discounted prices on food, said Schuh.
“We did purchase it because, right now, we don’t want to ask anybody to really donate. It’s not fair,” she said. “Also, it’s funded by donations from people coming to get the meals. It’s a freewill offering.”
“Parishioners, non-parishioners, it doesn’t matter,” said Fr. Everts. “It’s opened up to anybody who wants to come for a meal. … It’s just a great opportunity for us to step forward to walk with each other and that’s what this has been all about.”
Fr. Kyle Sladeck, parochial vicar, added that the event is a “great opportunity to connect with some people. It gets people food, it gets people out of their house, at least for a trip over to the church. It helps them get in touch with what the Catholic Church is and what we do.”
The parish planned to offer one more community meal on Thursday, May 21.
“(On May 21) it is pulled pork, pulled chicken or some kind of chicken,” said Schuh. “If this safer at home continues, if we have to go beyond next week, we have meatballs to do meatball subs.
“It’s such great will for the community and we are happy to help — and it’s a great way to evangelize,” added Schuh.