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Donations keep food on table

July 10, 1998

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

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The Lunch PlaceBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Lunch Place in Waynesboro is the place to go for a free hot lunch whether you're poor or just plain lonely.

Since The Lunch Place opened in February 1990, volunteers under Gladys Fitz's supervision have served more than 87,000 free meals - 50 to 60 a day - in the dining room of Christ United Methodist Church at 6 W. Second St.

Everyone is welcome, said Richard Shook, treasurer of the program. "If anyone wants to, they can leave a donation. Last year we collected $1,500," he said.

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"Some come because they need to, some for companionship," said Fitz, 71, of Waynesboro, who has directed the program from the beginning.

The Lunch Place was founded by the Waynesboro Fellowship of Churches. Volunteers, mostly retirees from member churches, work in the kitchen.

Fitz arrives at 8 a.m. and doesn't leave until the kitchen is cleaned up after lunch. She picks the menu based on what food is available.

On Wednesday the menu included pork and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and corn. Tuesday was chili and Thursday was likely going to be baked chicken pot pie, Fitz said.

The pork, like most of the food served, was donated.

Martin's Food Market donates day-old baked goods. Henicles Market and Savoy Catering Service are regular donors.

"Yesterday (Tuesday) Henicles sent over some tomatoes that had spots on them. We took the spots off and stewed them," Fitz said.

She also buys food from a nonprofit food pantry in Hagerstown.

The annual Mother's Day weekend food drive by volunteer mail carriers from the Waynesboro Post Office also helps stock The Lunch Place and two area food pantries, said Paul Sease, coordinator.

Carriers drop off postcards to customers on their routes asking for donations of nonperishable foods, Sease said.

"They leave it in grocery bags by their mailboxes and we pick it up," he said. "This year we picked up 8,300 pounds in Waynesboro."

The nationwide drive is sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers. Other Franklin County, Pa., post offices participate, he said.

Citizens donate food and money, Fitz said.

"Sometimes they drop off fresh meat. One woman donates the tea bags for the iced tea. Sometimes a man comes in and says he's on his way to Sam's Club and asks me what I need. Just yesterday a member of the church brought in 14 quarts of blueberries. I'll make muffins or upside-down cake," she said.

"Every Christmas the kindergarten class at Fairview Elementary collects food. It's cute to see the little children coming in with their cans," she said.

Checks and cash come in regularly too, she said. "One day a lady I didn't know came in and gave me a check for $1,000," she said.

Shook said the program operates on an annual budget of $20,000 plus donations.

On Wednesday, a mix of single seniors, couples and families with young children were eating lunch. Some said they come on most days. Others said they have established friendships with fellow diners and sit at the same table.

Donations to The Lunch Place can be made at the church or by calling 1-717-762-7042.

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