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Love Feast celebrates 20 years of serving meals to Mitchell community

Volunteers serve food during the Nov. 9 Love Feast meal at the First United Methodist Church in Mitchell. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic) 1 / 2
Volunteers serve food during the Nov. 9 Love Feast meal at the First United Methodist Church in Mitchell. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic) 2 / 2

On Mary Mountain's calendar, two days each month are boldly circled.

The days denote the nights that Love Feast will be held at the First United Methodist Church in Mitchell — and Mountain is always eager for the days to arrive.

"I can hardly wait for it to get here," Mountain said. "You never know who you're going to meet and what you're going to come up against."

Love Feast is a free dinner meal provided twice a month at the First United Methodist Church for those in need, stopping by "for fellowship, food and friendship," Mountain said.

Mountain has served on the Love Feast task force for the past 18 years, but this year is special for the group, as it marks 20 years since they formed in November 1997.

But it's just another year of serving the community for task force members, including Carol Hasz, who's been involved since the very beginning.

Hasz, who has served as chairperson of Love Feast since 2001, said it's the growth and eagerness of people willing to volunteer that have been most surprising and exciting in the last two decades.

In its first year, Love Feast offered meals only once a month, and no deliveries. But since, they now serve hundreds of people, with attendance fluctuating month to month, Hasz said.

This year, there are nearly 200 deliveries made each Love Feast meal — which is held at 5 p.m. on two Thursdays of each month — for four different routes throughout the community. And there's countless others who stop by the church, ranging recently between 85 and 130 people.

"It's for people who need a meal or company," Hasz said. "We don't know what their needs are."

Stories to share

Filled with volunteers, the kitchen and dining room of the church is a hopping place each time Love Feast is held. And the task force wouldn't have it any other way.

Each Love Feast meal, volunteers from churches and organization in Mitchell are charged with cooking and serving the food. And the task force is always on the lookout for more volunteers, Hasz said, to help keep the event running smoothly and remaining organized.

While serving a meal is the main portion of Love Feast, the group also holds door prizes for guests. And once a month Hasz said books are given to all children, and families are provided certificates for a half-gallon of milk after each meal.

But one of the most important aspects, Hasz and Mountain said, is hearing stories and getting to know those who stop by.

"We're giving to the lonely, the hungry and some of them have lost loved ones who like to tell you about their life. It reaches out to a lot of people," Mountain said. "You get to know the guests, and they have their stories to tell and they come here for that."

Meeting a need

Love Feast all began when a few locals noticed a need in Mitchell.

"It meet a need for people who didn't have food, or didn't have enough food," Hasz said.

And ever since, people of all ages and backgrounds have stopped by Love Feast. Within two years of starting in 1997, the group decided by 1999 to host a meal twice a month to allow for more people access to a warm meal. And it's been that way ever since, Hasz said.

While there were no celebrations this year in honor of the group's 20th anniversary, Hasz said it's still special. But for now, they're just focusing on what they do best: serving a meal.

And right now the group is gearing up for a Christmas meal, which will be served on Dec. 21.

With freezers throughout the church packed with frozen turkeys, Hasz looks forward to the holiday season, and anticipates another fulfilling year of Love Feast.

"It gives people a place to go to get something to eat twice a month," she said.