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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
For the past seven years, Walpole’s United Church has been the home of Breaking Bread, a community program sponsored by Walpole Families of Faith that provides free meals every Monday night.
There’s no registration or RSVP required; anyone in need of a hot, nutritious dinner is welcome to visit the church at 5:30 p.m. on Monday evenings and will receive one. And while donations of any amount are welcome, they are not at all necessary from the guests.
“We do this once a week, no matter what,” said Sheila Harbst, a volunteer and board member of Walpole Families of Faith. She revealed that the only time Breaking Bread has ever been cancelled was when a snowstorm prevented the volunteers from reaching the doors.
The community meal program even provides a take-out service; those in need of a meal can call in and pick it up in take-out containers.
“They may want to eat it at home or they may not want to eat it right here [in the church,] particularly if they have children. We’re trying to be very sensitive,” Sheila said, explaining that some families are more public about receiving a free meal than others.
Since its inception, Breaking Bread has run entirely by volunteers, many of which coming from the six local churches who helped to come up with the idea. With at least one Servsafe certified volunteer chef preparing, cooking, and serving the meals each week, Breaking Bread has seen volunteers from the Junior Woman’s Club of Walpole, local businesses, Boy and Girl Scouts, and high school students help set up, clean up, and take on “front of the house” duties.
The program is also looking for volunteers who would like help with preparing and cooking food.
“I think it’s a wonderful organization,” said one volunteer. “There’s the usual suspects each week, but some different people come in each week. It’s a nice thing to do and be a part of. And the food is very good!”
Another volunteer agreed, adding: “We would love to have more people come and eat, and come and help, too.”
The guests chatted with one another as they ate a complete meal of bread and butter, salad, a hot dinner, and chocolate cake for dessert. Many of Walpole’s seniors join, too, using the weekly dinner as an opportunity to socialize with others.
“That would be awful, you know,” Sheila began, “to be sitting at home in a little apartment somewhere and you don’t have companionship while you eat. That’s very sad. You don’t really feel like eating. So, I’m very pleased that we can serve our elderly as well as we do.”
At the end of the meal, the volunteers pass out raffle tickets to the guests and raffle off the leftover meals to take home and save for later. Aside from it being a fun element at the dinner, it also offers a fair chance for each guest, instead of taking the leftovers on a first-come basis.
“It’s a very unique organization, as well as a service that the community uses and needs very much,” said Sheila. “It does feel very satisfying to be able to do something. It may not be enough, but it’s something.”