By Diana Villiers Negroponte
As an outgrowth of the enthusiastic support for the Winter Shelter in McKenna Hall and recognizing the need for food and shelter, our weekend suppers began on November 9, 2013. Mike Conway and Judith Keating had listened to Rev. John Graham at Grace Episcopal Church who hosted a lunch service for those living on the streets of Georgetown. The start of winter weather galvanized them and other Holy Trinity volunteers to think about serving all year round a Saturday and Sunday supper.
This service would demand a lot in volunteer time and funding, but the pastors of Mt Zion’s United Methodist Church (the first African American congregation in Washington) and Georgetown Presbyterian joined us joyfully. Over the years, five more churches in the Georgetown area — Jerusalem Baptist, Christ Church, Georgetown Lutheran, Dumbarton United Methodist and St. John’s Episcopal — found the same joy in serving the marginalized a hot, sit-down weekend meal. This has become an ecumenical service, joining the pastors and parishioners of all these churches in common commitment to serve the poorest among us.
Early on I joined other volunteers as they cooked nutritious hot meals in their own kitchens and brought them to the assigned church. Mary Tschudy and Siga Rastonis were determined to decorate each table with the flowers of the season: from Valentine’s day through the Christmas season, we set up white table clothes and seasonal decorative flowers. Accompanied by some recorded dinner jazz, our dining room for 70 - 90 people always looked ready for celebration.
Yes, with countless volunteers from Holy Trinity, we celebrated. Youth carried out their necessary service hours. Members of the parish caught this particular service bug and played leadership roles in managing the Saturday supper. Others of us, who had begun volunteering when we could lift tables and chairs, found that age required that we slow down and spend more time talking with our guests.
They are our guests: we know their names, we know their problems. Our name tags indicate our Christian names, and calls across K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue from a supper guest proves that our friendship extends beyond the weekend. Over the past eight years we have lost friends to ill health, death or movement away from D.C. If they return, they are welcomed with open arms.
We adapted according to season, but the pandemic presented an enormous challenge. How were we to offer hot food to guests who could not enter the church halls? Churches whose Sunday services were officiated through Zoom now faced the dilemma of how to continue their weekend meal service. We debated at length the alternatives and decided to feed our guests outside the church halls.
In sweltering summer heat and freezing rain, we have not stopped engaging our guests and feeding them. Wonderful volunteers bring hot, crispy fried chicken and hot casseroles. Ingenuity enabled us to continue offering piping hot Haitian coffee, chocolate and tea. Otherwise, our meal packs offer a variety of sandwiches, fruit, a vegetable, a snack and a dessert.
After eight years of weekly suppers, we and our sister churches continue with broad smiles to serve our guests.
Thank you for celebrating the 8th Anniversary of the Weekend Meals for the Marginalized! On behalf of all of the volunteers, thank you for your pledges to the Social Justice Ministry and for your direct donations to the weekend meals. With your help, our hospitality continued through the pandemic. For more information about this program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.