Almost seven years of free dinners served to community

The Breaking Bread team from St. James’ Episcopal Church has been serving together since the program’s inception. Niki Turner photo

MEEKER | A “free lunch” might be impossible to find, but in Meeker there is such a thing as a free dinner. Once a week on Thursday since November 2010, Meeker churches have stepped up to heed the Bible’s command to feed the hungry. That’s more than 10,000 meals provided to anyone who shows up, free of charge, free of obligation. You don’t have to listen to a sermon or put money in an offering plate.
In fact, “no proselytizing” was one of the original tenets of the agreement established between the participating churches at the beginning.
“We didn’t want it to be church-centered,” said Father Scott Hollenbeck of St. James’ Episcopal Church, one of the original organizers, along with Joe and Ellen Nieslanik and former Meeker resident Bill Ertmer. “We just wanted to feed people, body, mind and spirit.”
The idea to host a weekly dinner grew out of the annual Thanksgiving feast put on by the Holy Family Catholic Church.
“It was a springboard,” Hollenbeck said. He also wanted to make better use of Richards Hall, the fellowship hall at St. James. They have a full kitchen with a commercial-grade dishwasher, which made Richards Hall the best site.
The meals are provided by teams from the participating churches and organizations, currently from St. James, Holy Family Catholic, Meeker United Methodist, Meeker Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the latest addition: a team from Barone Middle School led by Principal Jim Hanks.
The teams have prepared meals for between 20 and 50 people every week for the last seven years.
Hollenbeck said they plan to feed 50 every week. Sometimes there are more, sometimes less, but they’ve never run out of food. During the last “boom,” things were busier at Breaking Bread, with energy industry workers eager to take advantage of a hot, home-cooked meal.
In the summer months they serve sloppy Joes, and switch to a spaghetti feast in the winter.
Each participating group is responsible for providing, preparing and serving the meal. In seven years, they’ve only missed two weeks.
“Anybody who has a heart for this is more than welcome,” Hollenbeck said.
Any and all are welcome to attend. Breaking Bread begins at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays at Richard’s Hall, across the street from the sheriff’s office.