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Local feeding ministry seeks volunteers to serve

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Feeding Ministry volunteers (from left) Terry deBoom, Nellie Kruger, Alvina Kooiman, Shirley deBoom, Henrietta Haan and Lorraine Edwards serve meals at Westminster Presbyterian Church Saturday afternoon in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Before the Bread of Life feeding ministry served its first meal in Worthington little more than a year ago, skeptics said it wouldn't last.

Jan Ojinaka, one of its organizers, said the program is not only still serving a meal every Saturday afternoon for people in need, an average of 20 to 25 people are fed each week.

After seeing a drop in attendees during the summer months, Ojinaka said attendance began to rebound during the fall, and has stayed steady this winter. She is glad to see those who need a hot, nutritious meal, taking part.

Mostly, the diners are of Caucasian and Hispanic descent, while there was group of African refugees who attended for a while, Ojinaka said. Some people have returned week after week, and others come for a while and then stop.

"I hope that means life has turned around for them," she said. "We miss the kids who used to come all the time."

The Bread of Life feeding ministry served its first meal on Jan. 17, 2009. The program was developed by a group of concerned residents brought together to discuss housing and homelessness in the community.

Meals are served from 1 to 2:30 p.m. each Saturday at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Worthington. Volunteers prepare, serve and provide clean-up after the meal, in addition to paying $50 for the use of the facility and purchasing the ingredients for the meal. The food costs are minimal, as most of the items come from the Manna Food Pantry at Westminster.

Ojinaka develops the menu each week, and the food is prepared in the church's kitchen.

"We want it to be a basic, hot, delicious meal," she said. Meals range from soup and a sandwich to stew and biscuits. Fruits and vegetables are typically offered, along with milk, water or lemonade.

After serving the meal, volunteers are encouraged to dine with the attendees and get to know more about them, provide encouragement and perhaps even offer them direction in seeking help from local agencies.

"The volunteers that we have are really good," said Ojinaka, adding that church youth and adult groups have volunteered, along with 4-H clubs, school groups, neighborhood groups and the Nobles County Integration Collaborative.

More volunteers are needed, however. Ojinaka said it doesn't take a large group -- it works best if three to five volunteers help at a time.

"If someone would like to help oversee (the event), we're also looking for help there," she added.

At this time, Ojinaka and community volunteer Jodie Johnson take turns staffing the event each Saturday. They'd like to have at least one more volunteer in the rotation.

Johnson showed up last February to volunteer, and she's returned week after week to help out.

Johnson said she often thought the community needed a soup kitchen, so when she noticed a flier about Bread of Life, she decided the least she could do was help serve.

"The good Lord knew I was lazy," she said with a laugh. "I basically walk across the street."

Johnson said she's met many great people -- both volunteers and those who come to share in a meal. It makes her feel good to be able to help.

"Every time you do something for somebody else, you're rewarded back," she said. "It's something we all have to do."

Ojinaka said all volunteers are welcome, adding that adult supervision is requested for youth who wish to volunteer.

While attendees get a balanced meal at Bread of Life, Ojinaka said the volunteers get so much more.

"I see the compassion in what we do for human beings," she said with a tear in her eye. "I have reached a point in my life where, if you live in a community, you give back to it. My dad taught me about giving back to your community. It feels great.

"As long as we've got people coming, it's going to keep on," she added.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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