The Open Table ministry, which has been preparing and serving meals for those homebound or less fortunate for the past 16 years, is running short of funds.
Open Table, which operates on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month, is currently serving 450 to 500 meals each week. It takes about 40 people, all volunteers, to cook and deliver the meals, and the cost of the food is about $2,200 per week.
“Our big need is financial help and donations, but we will take any help we can get,” said Hillsville Presbyterian Church Pastor Kevin Campbell.
Open Table was the idea of the late Jim Carpenter, who pastored Hillsville Presbyterian Church (HPC) for 16 years. He suggested the ministry to the Carroll County Ministerial Association and quickly gained a valued supporter in Pastor Ramon Torres of Hillsville’s First United Methodist Church (FUMC). The ministry has always been housed at HPC.
Presently, the congregations of HPC, First Baptist of Hillsville, Blue Ridge Chapel Church, FUMC and Fancy Gap Methodist Church take turns preparing the meals. Dalton Hill Christian Church and Buffalo Mountain Presbyterian Church provide cakes, and the Hillsville Christian Church and Mountain Plains United Methodist Church make donations. The ministry also receives donations from Brady’s Produce, the Bland Food Ministry and the Presbyterian Hunger and Gleaning Program, but none of these on a regular basis.
“It’s always a nice meal, with meat, two vegetables, fruit, bread and dessert,” said Mava Vass.
“If you bought that for lunch, you would be looking at $7 to $8,” added Campbell.
In its early years, as many as 15 people walked or drove to HPC for meals, but as the years have passed, the walk-in traffic has become virtually nil. FUMC also used to transfer people in its van, but that has also stopped.
“As the meals have progressed, most of the people we serve are sick or confined to their homes,” said Lora Terry. “Some people are just not well enough to cook, some don’t have the funds. One person delivers meals to a home with a dirt floor.”
The ministry is about more than just food, however. It is also about compassion and making people feel safe and wanted.
“When they’re shut in, it’s nice for them to have a quick visit, even if it’s just a few minutes to see if they’re okay. It means the world to them,” said Terry.
“The people who deliver the meals get really close to people. They have all kinds of needs, including spiritual. The program has always stood for that,” said Vass. “One man, William Johnson, always buys cookies when the Girl Scouts are selling them and delivers them along with the prepared meals.”
She added that the ministry serves people in a variety of ways. Wendell Turpin picks up the empty boxes and cans from the meals and recycles them, with the money going toward his son’s college education.
However, the focus of the program is to benefit the needy and homebound.
“My dad, Haskell Lawson, is 89 and has had three heart attacks. He delivers 45 to 55 meals in the Laurel community and would deliver 150 if he could,” said Terry. “When he arrives at a house, people are standing at the door waiting for him. When he leaves, they stand at the door and wave until he is out of sight; its hard work, but it’s a true blessing.”
The Open Table Ministry does apply for grants and has received some in the past. However, those monies can’t be counted on for the budget, so private and business donations are needed. Terry has faith the needed funding will come.
“That money is going to come in. The Lord is going to bless our work because of what the meals mean to so many people,” she said.
Anyone wishing to be added to the delivery list, should contact Mava Vass at 728-2303. Anyone wishing to make a donation should address their check to Open Table and send it to Hillsville Presbyterian Church, Open Table, 172 S. Main St., Hillsville, VA 24343.
Michael Howlett can be contacted at 276-728-7311 or on Twitter@MikeEHowlett