Open Table celebrated its first anniversary earlier this month. The idea of Open Table came from discussions at First Congregational Church and how they could continue to serve the community. A common thread in ideas which would benefit the community was the knowledge of how many students in the Lowell Area School district were on free or reduced lunch. In 2015 work began to develop Open Table. All are welcome every Thursday to partake in a healthy meal.
Everyone is Welcome
The idea of Open Table is everyone is welcome to come for a free meal. Shannon Hanley is the President of the board which oversees Open Table. She says she wants to make sure whoever walks through the door feels welcome. “Our doors are open to those who are hungry, lonely, or busy.” she says. There is no discrimination.
Those living alone who would like to have a meal with others are invited. The first time venturing out may be hard but the volunteers and those eating dinner will make newcomers feel at home. Open Table is a great opportunity to meet others in the community and have conversations. Seniors will find Open Table as a means to have one less meal to cook.
Families are also invited. Open Table offers the busy family a chance to have a meal without worrying about cooking and cleaning up. The atmosphere is similar to that of a restaurant where a volunteer takes an order and brings food to the table. This is a great chance for kids to learn and practice when eating at a restaurant.
Behind the Scenes
Open Table works with the Health Department for all of the necessary certificates needed to prepare and serve food. Hanley says there are seven individuals with a ServSafe certificate which is a restaurant training program for cooking, care, reheating, and safety of food.
Working with Feeding America, Sage Meat, Heidi’s Farmstand, and Flat River Outreach Ministries Open Table is able to purchase food used for their weekly meals at a discounted price. Food preparation starts in the early afternoon. Volunteers report to help with the meal, set up tables, and get the dining area ready.
The meal is served from 5-7 each Thursday. Volunteers during this time take orders, bring food and drinks, and make sure guests are comfortable and leave with a full stomach. After the meal volunteers also help with cleanup of the dining area and the kitchen.
Welcome to the Table
Each week Open Table serves over 60 meals and on some occasions the number has been close to 100. But there’s always room for more. The menu is posted on Facebook so guests know what will be served. There’s also a vegetarian choice of pasta with sauce or butter every week.
Open Table is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Donations can be made to the group’s efforts on the bottom of their webpage. You can also volunteer in the kitchen or help with serving guests. Information about helping can be found in the volunteer section of their webpage. A sign up is available online. It’s easy to see where help is needed and when there are open spots. Individuals or groups are welcome to volunteer. Some have come to enjoy a meal one week and sign up to volunteer the next. There’s something to be said about serving and being served by those in the community.
This Thursday’s menu is macaroni coleslaw, hot dogs, onion rings, and apple slab pie for dessert. Guests are welcome to a second helping and take out is also available. Stop in for a meal at Open Table located in the First Congregational Church at 865 Lincoln Lake.