Nelson Twp. – January is traditionally a time to make resolutions, with eating healthy, spending more time with family & friends, and helping others topping the list. If you’re looking for some motivation for your own resolutions, or would like to hear about some local folks who’ve managed to be successful at all three for the last 20 years, you need to meet the women at The Nelson United Methodist Church (NUMC). Ruth Randlett, Alma Jones, Arlene Novotny, Mary Thompson, Barb Baer, Jean Doraski and Mary Jane Orr have been providing a free, healthy meal and a sense of community to area residents through a monthly program at NUMC called ‘God Provides a Meal.’ The program, which began 25 years ago, is run solely by donations of food and money. It takes its inspiration from sources like Ephesians 2:10, which states, “It is God Himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ago He planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.” And helping others is just what these ladies and their predecessors have been doing for the area needy by providing a free monthly meal at their church on Nelson Circle in Garrettsville.
These hard working ladies presented their final community meal to 75 people via delivery and to walk-ins on December 21. Ruth Randlett, current meal organizer, explained that the ladies really struggled with their decision to end the ministry. Her team, whose average age is 80, has decided to retire after 20 plus years of serving their community. In a heartfelt letter to meal recipients this month, Randlett expressed her committee’s “pleasure to serve,” and shared information on other meal programs and food cupboards available to area residents. She and her team find solace in the fact that their mission of giving food to people in need will continue.
The NUMC will continue to support the nearby Nelson Garrettsville Community Cupboard, and the influence of their free meal program lives on through other area churches. Through the years, Randlett and her team’s willingness to share their program has spurred similar projects at other area churches, including a vibrant program at Mantua Center Christian Church (MCCC) called the Loaves and Fishes community meal. Using the NUMC meal as a starting point, MCCC started its own community meal program, and eventually created a program to help other churches and organizations start similar programs in the area and around the country, thanks to its website: loavesandfishesmeal.org.
To date, they’ve helped nine area churches start community meal programs, and at least one church outside the state. Interested parties can visit their web site, which lists helpful tips, proven recipes scaled to serve 50-60 people, and links to other area meal programs. Roger Hurd, part of the team who secured a grant to promote Loaves & Fishes online and via direct mail, said, “At the start, our driving force was to feed the needy. That’s still the main focus, but over the years our outlook has changed. We now see the need to provide an opportunity for fellowship as well.” Community meal programs provide benefits not only to the people they serve, but to those who provide the service, as well.
Randlett feels blessed to have worked on such a great cause with such a great team of ladies. With luck, or perhaps some New Year’s Resolutions, the chain reaction they’ve started in the area will inspire some other folks to continue the work they’ve begun. Randlett is willing to share her time and expertise with others who want to continue the meal program at NUMC. For more information, contact the Nelson United Methodist Church at (330) 527-2179. For information on local community meals or to start one at your church, visit loavesandfishesmeal.org.