Valerie Hyde looks forward to each Thursday when she serves lunch to those in need in downtown Killeen.
“It feels good. It makes you appreciate things more,” Hyde said of her participation the past year and a half with First United Methodist Church of Killeen’s weekly “Lunch with Our Neighbors” at the Moss Rose Community Center.
“I can’t give so much financially, so I give physically,” she said with a laugh, as she bustled about the center, serving plates and tossing out trash.
Hyde is one of several church members who help serve a free hot lunch to those in need from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each Thursday.
This week, the group had to set up two extra tables to accommodate the crowds. The week prior, the church served a record 61 lunches, along with 22 servings of seconds. Members have seen a rise in attendance lately, likely due to the winter weather. On average, 40 people attend weekly.
The lunches always open with a prayer and devotional, and once a month, Communion is offered to anyone interested.
“We do what we can to reach out,” said Associate Pastor Cynthia Moss, as she cradled an attendee’s 4-week-old infant. “Everything is done out of love, with no strings attached.”
The group attempts to be the light of Christ to the community, she said.
Darrel Charlton, along with wife Anna Marie, has organized the weekly event the past several years. Thursday marked the fourth anniversary of the lunches, which began when the church was located downtown and took notice
of the number of homeless and needy.
“It kind of blossomed,” Moss said.
Along with enjoying a hot lunch, dessert and coffee, each participant receives a nonperishable bag lunch. The only identifying information the church requests is each person’s first name.
As Charlton talked, a number of attendees greeted him like old friends.
Each week, a different group within the church supplies and serves the rotating menu of lunches. “We see a lot of friendly faces,” Charlton said. “It’s amazing.”
Not everyone is homeless, but all of the attendees are in need, he said. The group welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds.
“We’re doing something for the community, but more importantly, something for these people,” Charlton said. “You can’t help but feel good about what you’re doing. Most everybody in the world now and then needs a helping hand.”
The weekly lunches are just a small part of what the church does for the community.
In recent months, the organization purchased bus tickets for people in need of help reaching family and job opportunities, along with providing low-income residents and members of their congregation with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner baskets. “We do what we can within reason,” Charlton said.