PITTSFIELD, Maine — Buoyed by the success of a recent community winterization program, a group of volunteers has established The Welcome Table, which will provide local people with a place to gather and socialize, be warm and enjoy a free lunch.
Community activist Trudy Ferland of Pittsfield said she was so impressed with the recent KeepMe Warm project — 80 volunteers showed up to winterize 25 area homes — that she decided to take the effort one step further.
“This will be a true community effort,” Ferland said Thursday night at The Welcome Table’s first organizational meeting. “This program could meet three needs: warmth, nutritious food and socialization.”
She stressed that although the meal will be free, it is the warmth and socialization that are the priorities. Ferland could not estimate how many people would come to The Welcome Table but said it could be 25 to 50.
“This is a wonderful concept,” Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said.
“It could evolve into a hub for socialization,” Melanie Wakefield of Unity said, “a place of joy with a unique mix of people.”
The First Universalist Church is providing the gathering and kitchen space while teams of community volunteers will prepare and serve the meals each Friday. The space would be open for at least four hours, giving senior citizens, mothers with young children and others a chance to socialize in a cozy location.
Welcome Table volunteer Jane Woodruff said it will “provide a warm place, warm friends and warm food.”
Ferland envisions a series of teams from local businesses, civic groups and churches that will take turns cooking a meal each Friday. Each team would be responsible for planning its menu, buying the food and preparing the meal.
“If we had 12 teams, that would mean each team would only be responsible for cooking once every three months,” she said. Teams could be as small as two to three people.
A separate team will be responsible for opening and closing the space and administering the program.
At Thursday’s meeting, three teams already volunteered for January: the ARTS Club, GE Security and the Universalist Church. Others at the meeting said they would recruit teams at their individual businesses and then volunteer.
The Welcome Table will open its doors at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 9, with beef stew and homemade bread, provided by the GE Security team.
Ferland stressed that if a company, church or individual cannot gather a team or is unable to devote several hours to a Friday luncheon, there are many other ways to participate.
Volunteers could donate food or funds, cook at home and deliver it to a team, provide transportation to diners or even play dinner music.
“The ways that people can participate are endless,” Ferland said. “This is a program that can really make a difference. As word spreads, I’m sure many other groups will come forward and participate.”
Any group that wants to establish a team or any person wanting to volunteer or donate may contact Ferland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 487-6523.