Meal program looking for host groups

By Dean Palmer - Special to the News

The Pilot Mountain Outreach Center is seeking to breath new life into its Monday night community meal program with a goal of restoring at least some of the meal offerings which have been cut.

Now in its seventh year, the program, since its inception, has used the lower level of the Charles Stone Community Library to host any local residents who wish to come together for a shared meal. Meals begin at 6 p.m. on scheduled Monday nights.

While the center schedules the meals, the task of serving as hosts has always fallen to area groups which volunteer on a rotating basis. Host groups may consist of civic organizations, clubs or groups of business or company employees. Most of those having taken part have been from churches, including Sunday School classes, Bible study groups or men’s and/or women’s organizations.

Host groups prepare quick and simple meals, usually accompanied by something sweet for dessert and a drink. Examples of past meals provided include soup and a sandwich, spaghetti, pinto beans, ham, hot dogs, submarine sandwiches and any accompaniments for each. Some members of each group are asked to arrive by 5 p.m. to allow time for set-up.

Meals also feature a brief devotional period. At the hosts’ discretion, the time may feature songs or shared stories, including ones from personal experience. If desired, outreach center volunteers will host this time while groups concentrate of meal preparation and service.

“This can easily be done with as few as 10 volunteers,” noted Karen Caparolie, who serves with her husband, Jimmy, as co-directors of the center. “The outreach center board of directors has hosted meals using as few as a half-dozen people. We’re willing to help with the planning as needed and we usually get there early to help groups with setting up the tables and chairs.”

For much of its history, the meals have seen 75-100 or more residents coming together weekly to share food and fellowship. As many as 25 host groups have been available to provide meals, but that number has dropped to 13. And as the number of host groups has dropped, so has the number of participants, often to as low as 50.

“When we started losing groups,” Karen Caparolie explained, “we had to cut the number of meals and some meals were cancelled. We’ve gone from weekly to now trying to have a meal every two weeks, usually on the first and third Monday. A lot of those attending have trouble keeping up with the schedule and they aren’t sure when the meals are. Some people tell us that’s why they don’t come as much anymore. We’re asked to have them more often.”

According to Caparolie, those attending are still eager to share how much they enjoy the meals and the fellowship. While many come for the food, others simply enjoy the chance to get out of the house and be around friendly and often familiar faces.

“There is hunger in our community,” she notes. “We see it and that makes this important. But it’s also important because a lot of our residents, especially some of our older residents, don’t have family and are alone for much of the time. This gives them a safe, comfortable place to enjoy being around others. And with it at the library, they can come early and take advantage of the computers and books.”

Groups or individuals wishing to learn more about the program or about hosting a meal are invited to call the Pilot Mountain Outreach Center at 368-4907. If there is no answer, callers are asked to leave a message including the purpose of their call.

By Dean Palmer

Special to the News

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