In March 2017, volunteer residents and team members from Garden Spot Village served the first community meal at CrossNet Youth Ministries. Fifty-four members of the community joined the volunteers for a delicious meal, prepared by Garden Spot’s Sodexo Dining Services team.
The meal was the result of a community-wide commitment to donate to a Swipe Out Hunger campaign. Traditionally found on college campuses, Swipe Out Hunger allows residents and team members to make donations of unused meal dollars or cash to an account to benefit the community.
Attendance to the monthly meal, served on the fourth Monday evening from 5:30-6:30pm, grew through the years. By February 2020 the number of people served had tripled to 161. This incredible opportunity to serve neighbors and build a sense of community in New Holland brought great joy to the residents who coordinate the event each month.
Committee member Don Aldrich wrote in February 2020, “People continue to flock to our GSV Community Meal, and many raved about the food and commented how much they enjoy their experience…There were a number of great conversations reported by our volunteers and many guests lingered for conversations.”
The event expanded beyond food; volunteers from Anchored Ministries based in Elverson, Pennsylvania, began to bring a mobile clothing closet.
In March 2020 the event was canceled due to concerns about COVID. There was a deep loss of purpose and community on behalf of the volunteers. By April 2020 it became evident that the community still needed the complimentary meal because of widespread layoffs.
Garden Spot Village donated individually wrapped and packaged food, supporting CrossNet’s efforts to provide the community meal in a drive-through to-go format. Over the summer of 2020, Garden Spot residents became involved once more, preparing food and helping to distribute it, as appropriate.
The sense of community began to build. Over the course of the next two and a half years, Garden Spot Village residents and team members once again provided monthly meals, keeping the to-go format. Volunteers distributed hundreds of meals each month.
By the end of 2022, the total number of meals distributed through Garden Spot’s Swipe Out Hunger program totaled more than 10,200.
In January 2023, the community meal transitioned back to an in-person event. Don reports that the event went very well. Attendance and meals served was down compared to the previous in-person event, but that was expected because of the transition. The good thing? Don reports the return of “with who we had not been able to sit-down and fellowship for nearly three years.”
Fred Eck, who also serves on the community meal committee, agrees. “I appreciate the personal interaction; the interaction is key, as well as the opportunity to serve our community.”