The hungry and those who serve them in Montrose won a welcome reprieve Wednesday, when Shepherd’s Hand and Montrose Lighthouse secured permission to serve hot lunches five days a week at the United Methodist Church.
“This is a Band-aid on the problem, but (church) and their congregation were willing to step out on faith and help those needs,” Garey Martinez of Shepherd’s Hand said.
Montrose is grappling with poverty, homelessness and a tight housing market. Recently, a different charity, Christ’s Kitchen, was priced out of its current leased location when the building’s owners made a business decision. It had served hot lunches five days a week; the last of those meals is Friday, until such time as it finds another location.
Helping out fits with the UMC’s mission, The Rev. Lisa Petty said. The church decided years ago to stay put as a downtown presence and, through roundtable discussions of its board of trustees, also decided to provide space for volunteerism.
The board voted unanimously to lend Martinez the use of its commercial-grade kitchen, from which it already serves a Sunday evening meal.
“We recognize the need, from Christ’s Kitchen closing, there will be people in need of food. If we can provide space for that, and volunteers to help Garey, then we want to do that,” Petty said.
“We help with things we can. There are things that we can’t, but this is something that we can. Anytime we can, we say yes.”
The hot lunches begin Aug. 19 and will be served from noon to 1 p.m. at the UMC, 19 S. Park Ave., in the downstairs dining area.
Martinez received a letter of agreement with the church Wednesday and said it came as a relief, even though a meal a day during the week won’t solve all issues arising from local poverty, and more work on that front continues.
In addition to the closure of Christ’s Kitchen, Martinez and Montrose Lighthouse, which operates a wintertime emergency shelter in a city-owned building, were shot down on a request to rezone a property on North Park Avenue they had hoped to use as a meal site, resource center and, ultimately, an overnight shelter.
Hunger is an ongoing — and immediate — issue.
“I was real concerned about there being no hot food, especially for the homeless, but for anyone who had need to augment their food,” Martinez said.
“There were a lot of people going to Christ’s Kitchen or Shepherd’s Hand, where it was just marginal the amount of food they had for their families. … Everybody that was previously at Christ’s Kitchen and Shepherd’s Hand, I was concerned about.”
Martinez departed from where he used to operate Shepherd’s Hand in February. He continues to provide food boxes at the Cedar Creek Church and First Presbyterian Church. (At Cedar Creek Church, 222 S. Townsend Ave., the distribution dates are Monday and Thursday, 9:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. and at the Presbyterian Church, 1840 E. Niagara Road, from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday.)
Christ’s Kitchen’s manager, local pastor Jeremiah Quintin, said he was glad Shepherd’s Hand will be able to serve meals through the Methodist Church. “I hope all the people that come to Christ’s Kitchen will go there,” he said.
Christ’s Kitchen is in discussions with Region 10 about the Meals on Wheels food it used to provide; for now, the organization will use frozen meals, Quintin said. Christ’s Kitchen is also continuing to seek options for resuming its mission.
“We’re not done yet. We’re just going to be closed for a while,” Quintin said. Anyone with leads can leave a message for Quintin at 970-964-4765.
Although a meal site has been secured for Shepherd’s Hand to serve food, donations of food, including produce, and cash remain. Donations may be made at Cedar Creek Church Monday - Thursday, from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. (Do not take donations to the Methodist Church, unless it is during the Shepherd’s Hand/Lighthouse mealtime, because no one will be available to receive them.)
Monetary donations may be mailed to Shepherd’s Hand, P.O. Box 3354, Montrose CO 81402.
“We very much need donations. Now that we will be cooking again, any monetary donations we can use as well,” said Martinez.
For those who want to help out serving meals, an orientation will take place at UMC Friday at 6 p.m.
Petty said a number of her congregants have already expressed an interest in volunteering.
The UMC is also distributing letters to nearby homes and businesses, informing them of the decision to bring aboard Shepherd’s Hand/Lighthouse lunches.
“As followers of Jesus, we believe we are called upon to help those in need, not because they are without flaws, but because they, like each of us, have fallen short of God’s glory and are in need of grace. … We know that having people who are in need waiting around the church may not be ideal,” the letter states. “However, in an ideal world, there would be homes for everyone and all would be without need.”
The letter informs recipients they can bring safety concerns to the attention of the church and should notify authorities if they see illegal activities. The Montrose Police Department is located only about two blocks away, at 433 S. First St.
The church asks those who are concerned to reach out and talk with its leadership, 970-249-3716.
“If you are someone who prays and/or would like to serve, please pray for those who are in need of these meals, and reach out if you are interested in helping,” the letter says.
In addition to hosting Shepherd’s Hand’s weekday meals, UMC offers a hot meal each Sunday at 5 p.m. It also helps people with bus passes, obtaining state-issued IDs, toiletries and other issues.
“There’s definitely a need in the community,” Petty said. “I think it’s easy to pretend it’s somebody else’s problem, or someone else can help. Really, the question should be, ‘How can I help? I can’t do everything, but I can do something.’ We try to live by that.”
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.