Posted: May 13, 2015 | Written by Danyel Whyte
How would you feel if you had to wait all week to enjoy sweet company and a warm, balanced meal?
Unfortunately for many members of our community, basic necessities are a luxury. For the last 30 years, the Hot Meals Program, located at Calvary Presbyterian Church, has opened its doors to the public every Sunday in hopes to ease some of the suffering of the homeless community in Riverside.
“It’s not just about the food,” said Theresa Anderson, program interim coordinator. “We want to show people they are cared for and how they feel matters. It gives them a sense of belonging and community.”
With support from volunteers and donations, the Hot Meals Program is able to serve anywhere from 120-150 homeless guests each week. Although food is a large part of the program’s mission, hospitality is equally important.
“All of these people have a story, and a lot of them just need someone to listen to that story,” Anderson said.
The program is open to anyone including adults and families. In addition to providing meals, the program supplies information about local agencies and organizations that can provide additional and ongoing help with identification, Social Security benefits, job assistance, housing, food stamps and medical care.
Once a month, the Loma Linda Dental School brings their fully equipped Dental Van. The Path of Life Ministries also brings help with their Health to Hope Medical Van equipped with volunteer doctors and nurses.
Guests are also invited to visit the clothes closet each week, an area set aside with personal hygiene products, shoes and clothing that are provided by locals.
This offers a sense of protection and social acceptability to the participants. If the program receives more supplies than needed, it is donated to other neighboring organizations that support the homeless as well.
“I have been coming off and on for a few years now,” said Jessica Pitzek, RCC student and volunteer. “Serving changes your perspective on things.”
This program is committed to finding the right position for community members looking to help out. Different teams, including table setup, afternoon setup and cleanup teams work together to make this possible.
“Help is appreciated,” Anderson said. “We take it wherever we can get it.”
Word is spread through the grapevine from Riverside to Lake Arrowhead and through programs offered at neighboring schools.
30 consecutive years of time and effort have been dedicated to The Hot Meals Program in hopes to make Riverside a better place.
This organization sets an example of what is possible when people in a community pull together.
People from different faiths, backgrounds and organizations come together with one goal: to bring hope to the community.
If interested in participating in the Hot Meals Program, contact Theresa Anderson at email@example.com or show up at Calvary Presbyterian Church on the corner of 15th Street and Magnolia Avenue, Sundays at 5:15 p.m.