“It’s a nice opportunity to get together,” says Ruth Frantz, who lives across the street from the CrossNet Youth Center on Franklin Street. “The meals are very nice, the people are very nice and we enjoy going.” Ruth, her sons and her granddaughters frequently enjoy dinner together at Garden Spot Village’s Swipe Out Hunger meal served on the fourth Monday evening of each month at CrossNet Youth Center.
In March 2017 Fred and Eileen Eck and Lois and Don Aldrich helped to serve the first Garden Spot Village Swipe Out Hunger Meal at CrossNet Ministries Youth Center. Seventy-five people enjoyed a delicious lasagna dinner prepared by Garden Spot’s Dining Services/Sodexo team.
The evening was a celebration because it was the culmination of months of planning and fundraising. In early 2017 Garden Spot unveiled a Swipe Out Hunger initiative that challenged residents and team members to donate money or unused dining dollars to fund a community meal.
Garden Spot’s partnership with Swipe Out Hunger, a national organization that promotes food security on college and university campuses across the nation, was groundbreaking in that it was the first time a retirement community partnered with the organization.
Over time people from New Holland and the surrounding communities began to attend the monthly meal. “We learned about the meal from Lisa Kerstetter, who works at CrossNet and attends our church,” says Margaret Shenenberger, who lives just outside of New Holland. “My sister, my husband and I like to go to the different meals in the community. The one at CrossNet is different than the others. The first time we went we were really impressed. The food is different than we are used to and it’s really good.”
“The people serving are very friendly,” Margaret continues. “They stop by the table where we are sitting to visit with us and they will take our prayer requests. Sometimes I feel like I need extra prayer and they are always willing to pray with us.”
This feeling of community and willingness to take time to pray and listen to people’s stories has resulted in a monthly event that’s overflowing. Two years later, nearly 120 people regularly gather on the fourth Monday night of the month for hot food and fellowship. What initially started as an opportunity to provide greater food security for families in the New Holland area quickly became an opportunity for people to gather and experience life in community.
Carl Edwards, Jr., CrossNet director of development and ministries says, “At CrossNet we focus on relationships and the community meal facilitates a multigenerational relationship we haven't been able to manage before.
“Over the past two years,” Carl continues, “we have seen tremendous growth in relationships. We find that people come for the relationship aspect—parents and children come together. Plus, the food is amazing. People want to be engaged and known. They want to be connected to the community. The community meal creates a space where people can be known and we can build community.”
Don says, “We have been so blessed in the past two years. We average about 120 people each month and have served as many as 149. Amazingly, we have never run out of food or resources to pay for the food; God provides. We are so thankful for the generous donations, the willing Garden Spot Village residents and staff who volunteer and the great food prepared by Garden Spot’s Dining Services/Sodexo.”
In January 2019, Anchored by Grace, a mobile clothing closet and ministry of Morgantown Community Church, began to offer clothing for children and adults every other month. This addition connects families to yet another local resource.
To learn more about the community meal, please call Garden Spot Village at 717-355-6000 or CrossNet Ministries at 717-355-2454.