BANGOR, Maine — A smile spread across Ryder Morrill’s face as she sat in the basement of Columbia Street Baptist Church at noontime Sunday.
The 18-month-old girl was wide-eyed as she took in the familiar and new faces that surrounded her. Her mouth and cheeks were covered with spaghetti sauce and her belly was full.
That might not have been the case said her mother, Leah Morrill, 34, of Bangor, if they had stayed home. The cupboard was pretty bare Sunday. It often is at the end of the month when she’s low on money and food stamps, she said.
“We probably will make this part of our regular routine,” said Morrill, who also brought her 9-year-old son, Raven Brown, to the church that is a short walk from their home. “We need the extra food.”
Morrill and her children are one of the reasons three Bangor churches and one in Brewer have joined together to serve a noon meal every Sunday at the church on Columbia Street in downtown Bangor.
People are hungry but not homeless and although they can find free meals during the week and attend various church suppers in the city that are held on Saturdays, meals on Sunday weren’t being offered, the Rev. Peter Sprague, pastor of Columbia Street Baptist, said Sunday.
“We’re here to fill an unmet need,” he said.
So far, Bangor Baptist Church on outer Broadway, Redeemer Lutheran Church on Essex Street and St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church on North Main Street in Brewer have joined Columbia Street Baptist in serving the Sunday meal. Other churches and organizations such as Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops are welcome to join them, Sprague said.
The idea for the Sunday event came from a meeting of Bangor area pastors held last year when heating oil prices spiked dramatically, Sprague said. In meeting with city and shelter officials, the pastor learned that there was a need for a noontime meal on Sundays.
The first meal was offered on April 19. About 40 people were served, according to Sprague. About 25 people were fed on Sunday.
Nine volunteers from Bangor Baptist Church prepared the meal of American chop suey, a tossed salad, bread, cookies and drinks.
Frankie Barone, 38, of Bangor spent Sunday morning with other volunteers preparing the meal in the kitchen at Bangor Baptist before transferring it to the church on Columbia Street. Barone said he divides his time between horticulture and cooking.
“The Lord changed my life and this is time for me to give back,” he said Sunday. “The Lord saved me [in March 2008] from a selfish, narcissistic existence that involved alcohol and drugs. I realized that I was trying to fill a void that could only be filled by the Lord.”
Amber McMahon, 27, of Bangor said that she welcomed the Sunday meal.
“Sometimes, there’s just not enough food [at home] to get by,” she said. “It’s nice to come down here, meet some new people and get some good grub.”
Jasmine Strickland, 12, of Bangor agreed. She returned to school today after a week of vacation. The girl came to the Sunday meal with her grandmother, who takes her often to suppers at Bangor churches.
“We always come to suppers,” she said. “I like it because we have different food every day. This one is the best one yet. American chop suey is one of my favorite dishes and this is the best I’ve ever had it.”
For more information on the Sunday noontime meal, call 945-6616.