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Soup kitchen hosts anniversary dinner

January 14, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - The fifth anniversary of the Williamsport soup kitchen - known as The Shepherd's Table - was an emotional experience for longtime coordinator Laura Eckard.

"I prayed that at least three people would show up for that first soup kitchen meal in 1999 and there were 13," Eckard said as she helped serve the 50 to 60 people who showed up for the anniversary commemoration on Jan. 8.

The soup kitchen is open at 5:15 p.m. every Thursday at Rehoboth United Methodist Church and sponsored by 11 churches of the Williamsport Ministerium.

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Each congregation takes a turn preparing enough food for between 100 and 150 people, both those who turn out for the meal and those for whom it is delivered.

"Our good shepherd has called us together here, hence the new name, Shepherd's Table," said the Rev. Mark Sandell, president of the Williamsport Ministerium. "Here we put aside who we are and care for each other as children of God."

Host Pastor Jim Swecker welcomed all who attended.

"May all who come here find hospitable friends," he said.

The Rev. Marcia Mayor read Scripture and led a prayer.

Among those partaking of the full-course meal was Florence McCauley, who said she comes every Thursday as much for the fellowship as for the food.

"I've lived alone for about eight years and it's nice to get out and visit people once in a while," McCauley said. McCauley, 89, said she is a lifetime member of Rehoboth and supports the concept of The Shepherd's Table.

"The food is good, the fellowship is better and there is always something to take home," she said.

Laura Eckard and her husband, Bill, coordinate the organization of the meals. Each week, a different congregation is in charge of providing enough food for the 50 to 60 people who stay to eat and the 30 to 50 takeout meals each week.

"It's up to the individual church how they do it," Laura Eckard said.

Some churches cook the food at one time and bring it to Rehoboth, while some cook the food in a number of locations.

What the church prepares also is up to them, although there is some effort to follow seasonal menus and not repeat the same main course too often.

"Some churches have specialties they like to prepare and that's great," Laura Eckard said.

Money that is donated by the ministerium churches is used to buy coffee, hot chocolate, plates, cups and other necessities.

In addition, the Cookie Jar usually donates sweets that are packaged up for people to take home.

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