College Park-West Boulevard
By JESSICA KRAMPE
Every single night, 365 days a year, a meal is provided for Columbia’s homeless, and Trinity Presbyterian Church helps achieve this phenomenon.
Coordinated by Michele Ziegenfuss, Trinity volunteers handle the evening meal program the second Thursday of every month.
“It is a way to contribute my time,” she said. “It makes me feel good, and there is a need.”
Volunteers either serve or prepare food. Even with a core group of volunteers, Trinity can always use more help with funding and the donation of people’s time, Ziegenfuss said.
“They are a unique breed of people that want to help however they can,” she said. “They aren’t the kind of people that are rushed and hurried. They take their time and know what is important.”
Jackie Blanton helps cook and prepare the food when Trinity works the soup kitchen.
“It seems to mean a lot to a lot of people who are not going to get a home cooked meal,” she said. “It is a cooperative path to put together a complete nutritious meal.”
A typical dinner is balanced and healthy, including meat, vegetables, bread or starch, vitamin D whole milk, fresh fruit and a season-appropriate desserts.
Ziegenfuss said they serve anywhere up to 100 people. Leftover food is brought to St. Francis House at 901 Rangeline St., a place for homeless men. No food goes to waste, she said.
“Sometimes it just gives people hope,” she said. “That’s why I do it. Sometimes it just takes one thing to keep somebody going that day.”
Blanton said the needs of homeless people are always there.
“All of us who have so much, sharing our gifts is so important,” she said, “and doing this for people who need it so much.”
Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen is located in a public housing complex, 616 Park Ave., and is open from 5 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. daily. Volunteer groups representing different faith communities in Columbia run this St. Francis Community evening meal program.
During the day, the same space, an apartment, is the Interfaith Day Center. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The walk-in center provides daytime hospitality, shelter and support services for homeless individuals and families, said Brent Lowenberg, treasurer of Interfaith Council.
“People come in that don’t know where to turn,” he said. “It is an alternative to being out on the streets. The primary thing it offers is to get out of the heat or the cold.”
The Interfaith Council, a coalition of faith organizations and social service organizations, runs the Day Center, Lowenberg said. It serves anywhere from 30 to 50 people during the daytime.
“We are providing shelter for some of the most vulnerable individuals and families in the community,” he said.