By Tammy Daniels
05:17PM / Tuesday, January 29, 2019
The Saturday free lunch averages about 35 to 40 patrons and takes the place of the now-closed Harvest Ministries food program.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Berkshire Jammin' Critters 4H Club put on a spread Saturday at First Baptist Church.
The children scooped up macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and fruit salad that they'd made for patrons at the church's free Saturday lunch.
"It's my first time and I think it's kind of cool because I've seen it on TV — people serving food and doing nice things for people," said Cheyenne Goodermote.
4-H leader Teri Goodermote said the group had been wanting to do more in the community. The North Adams chapter had most recently raised $1,700 for the Ziemba farm in Adams that suffered a devastating fire.
Heidi Shartrand-Newell, the community soup kitchen coordinator, had approached the 4-H group to see if they were interested in hosting a Saturday deal.
"Anything that helps the community, they want to serve," Goodermote said. "They did really well. They planned the menu, they prepared all of the food and now they're serving it."
Shartrand-Newell said the church had decided to pick up the luncheon from Harvest Christian Ministries after it shuttered its food program on River Street. The Bennington, Vt., ministry couldn't support two kitchens so decided to focus on the Bennington program.
"We decided First Baptist could host the space and I volunteered to be the coordinator," she said. "We are going to try to do it every week as long as God lets us."
That means having a little help from the community to keep the effort going. Shartrand-Newell has been coordinating community groups, businesses, churches and others to host meals and take some of the burden off First Baptist.
"We wanted it to be community-based and not just rely on First Baptist because First Baptist already does a lot," she said. "We wanted to approach community groups, whether it was a church or not, to plan a meal, come serve and participate. ...
"I felt that we needed to open up to the community and let the community serve the community."
Shartrand-Newell said there are about 18 teams signed up to rotate but there's always room for more. The church is thankful for the donations it receives from Big Y Supermarkets — largely bread, pastries and produce — but the volunteer servers provide the bulk of the meals.
"We want to honor not only our community but the honor the resources in our community: the manpower, the time, the financials," she said. "And not ask one person or group to do it."
The lunch is served from about 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and averages 35 to 40 patrons, although Shartrand-Newell said her team is bracing for more in February if there's still fallout from the federal government shutdown that ended Monday.
If there's enough food, patrons can take seconds or takeout for supper. The meal is open to anyone who wants to stop by. It helps to complement the Berkshire Food Project that runs Monday through Friday at First Congregational Church.
Any groups interested in helping out with or hosting a Saturday lunch at First Baptist can contact Shartrand-Newell at firstname.lastname@example.org.