Methodist church hosts lunch for college students

Students eat home cooked meals provided by volunteers from the Methodist Church. Photo by Madeline Oden.

Students can enjoy homemade meals at College Lunch every Wednesday at First United Methodist Church here in Belton.
College Lunch is a ministry that 20 volunteers from the church put on for UMHB students from 11-1 p.m. on Wednesdays.
For a donation, students can select from multiple entrees, sides, a salad bar, homemade desserts, and a drink.
At last week’s meal, College Lunch offered breaded ranch chicken, oregano chicken, pulled-pork sandwiches and baked potatoes.
For sides, there was corn, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a salad bar, soup and hot biscuits.
To wash down the meal, there was pink lemonade, water and sweet tea.
Senior Education major Elleny Ohendalaski has been attending College Lunch since she was a freshman.
“The people that work at this church or attend this church care enough for the college students in this area to make lunch for us,” she said.
“It’s nice to have a home cooked meal during the week, and there’s so many different options.”
First Methodist began College Lunch in 2005. Chairman of the college ministry team, John Sykes, said that before the lunch, they tried Bible studies and discussion groups, but they weren’t working.
“We had been trying at the church for a number of years to come up with some kind of outreach to college students, specifically at Mary Hardin-Baylor,” Sykes said.
“Our new pastor at the time, Darren Walker, recounted what he did when he was a Wesley Foundation minister at Tarleton [State University]: they served a free lunch for the kids. That sounded like an interesting idea.”
The lunch, which runs strictly on donations from the students and members of the congregation, started out with 20 to 30 students.
Now, over 200 students attend the lunch.
The volunteers make enough for 350 lunches because many people come back for seconds.
“The purpose of the lunch is to feed students; we’re not trying to get them to come to our services. The purpose is to feed,” Sykes said.
“We’ve never refused seconds unless we just don’t have anything.”
College Lunch has been lovingly nicknamed ‘Meth House’ by the students, and Sykes says that the volunteers have embraced the name, after alerting the police.
“As soon as the chaplain for the police department, Reverand Darren Walker, heard we were being called ‘Meth House,’ he sat down with the [Belton] police chief, and he explained the meaning behind the name,” Sykes said.
Set-up usually begins for the lunch on Tuesdays, when volunteers begin cooking and setting up tables.
Sykes said that he chooses the menu based on prices, what the students seem to like, and the feasibility of cooking for a large amount of people.
Sykes said that college students are welcome to volunteer at Meth House on Tuesdays to help set up tables or on Wednesday to help with the meal.
David Henderson and his wife are congregants of FMC of Belton, and they have been volunteering at College Lunch for a year.
“It’s important to give back,” he said. “It’s fun to visit with students and ask them how they’re doing, and if they’re making 100s on their tests.”

Author: Lauren Lum

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