Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Where the well never runs dry

By ABBEY MILLER and DEB GASKILL

There’s nothing more comforting than a home-cooked meal and to that end, one organization in Fayette County has been providing community meals three times a week — each Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday mornings at about 11:15 a.m.

Since its inception in September 2009, the Well at Sunnyside, 721 S. Fayette St., Washington C.H., has provided food, clothing, and kindness to countless families in Fayette County.

The community meal program began about three years ago, according to kitchen coordinator Cindy Silveous, with eight people coming to the first Tuesday night meal.

Meals were cooked at home by volunteers and brought over to the former Sunnyside Elementary School in roasters and served.

Soon the program increased to dinner served two nights a week- Tuesdays and Thursdays— beginning at 5:30 p.m.— and now serves between 70 to 100 people per night, Silveous said. The number of meals served per night often increased toward the end of the month.

The organization now has a professional kitchen to cook and serve meals.

“All types” of people come in for meals, Silveous said. Folks who are unemployed or on Social Security, widows, widowers, or people who just want a little human contact.

“We try to help people with their problems, too,” Silveous said. “People ask us to pray with them, or keep an eye open for a job, or housing.”

Volunteers serve meals restaurant style to clients.

On this particular afternoon, Silveous was working on that evening’s meal, which would be marzetti, salad, garlic bread and butter and pie for dessert.

Another favorite is chicken casserole, made with celery, onion, noodles, chicken and cream of chicken soup.

“Some folks call it gourmet, I just call it every day home cooking,” she said.

Meals have been everything from tomato soup to BLT sandwiches to tacos. Silveous keeps the menus and the number of meals served in a record book and tries to plan meals a month in advance.
Grants and personal donations pay for the grocery bill, as well as donations of produce from Mid-Ohio Food Bank. The Well has a budget of approximately $1,200 per month for meals, but has kept the cost under that amount, she said.

On Saturday morning, the Bread of Life Ministry provides breakfast and lunch.

The idea of The Well is a unique one.

“People said we would never get all these churches working together, and they were right - we couldn’t. But God could, and did,” said The Well at Sunnyside board member Dale Lynch.

The concept for The Well came from a casual conversation Lynch had with a friend over lunch during the winter of 2009.

“Many churches and organizations in our community had programs to help those in need, but we thought it would be a neat idea to make a ‘one-stop-shop’ type of place for people in need. We wanted a place where all the churches could pool their resources. I was reading a book about how some area churches turned a church that was closing into a community center, and it really struck a chord with me,” Lynch said. “So my friend and I started contacting people at area churches to call a meeting and see what we could come up with.”

From there, the concept took off and came to fruition far faster than even Lynch had imagined.
“An (anonymous) couple came to me and said they had sold a partnership in Indiana, and were going to use the money to buy a summer home somewhere, but they decided they wanted to help the needy instead,” Lynch said. “They decided to the buy theSunnyside school when it went up for sale, and within a matter of months we opened the doors. It was unreal.”

For Fayette County, the timing couldn’t have been better.

“We opened right at a time when the economy was really going south,” said Lynch. “More and more people were losing their jobs or their homes. People who thought they would never need help were coming to us.”

The Well at Sunnyside also provides a ‘free store’ with clothing, meals, a laundry ministry and a toy ministry among other things. Lynch estimates in January over 1200 people benefited from The Well’s services.

Along with the obvious need of food and clothing, Lynch said members of The Well noticed other needs of those in the community.

“Somebody came to us and said that needy children were going to school with dirty clothes because their parents either didn’t have a washer and dryer, or couldn’t afford the laundromat. So we started our Loads of Love program at Sunshine Laundry,” Lynch said. “We also started getting donations of toys from different people, so we started a toy ministry. Toys might not seem like necessities, but they definitely bring joy into children’s lives.”

Though The Well offers a program for a variety of needs, Lynch believes the most important need they serve is the need of companionship.

“I think the most important thing that has developed is the community within The Well,” Lynch said. “It is a welcoming, non-judgmental atmosphere. We have found that many people come in just to be with other people. They want to talk to somebody, or get some prayer, or just have somebody listen to what is going on in their lives.

“Every time we have a meeting, we can’t believe this is happening. We have been able to get all the churches to work together. The fact everyone is working towards a singular goal… just proves this is a God thing,” Lynch said. “All churches believe you should help the needy. We just want people to know that God loves them, and we want to help take care of them.”

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