The seventh season of the community breakfast ended with a common chorus of “thank you so much and see you next year” as patrons left the dining hall of First Baptist Church. It was a bittersweet ending for many of the volunteers who worked for three months providing meals on summer Saturday mornings. Dining at ‘The Breakfast Table’ is available and meals are free to anyone who wishes to join.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” volunteer Jim White said. “Everybody had a purpose. But all in all, I think it was worth it. We have done a lot for Building Bridges and fostering diversity in our church,” he added.
Through 2019, the community breakfast was serving about 250 people each Saturday. The past two summers have seen a decline in the number hosted to approximately 200. The pandemic necessitated a shift in service leading to a drive through only concept. It was challenging some weeks to even find some of the food items included on the menu.
“I think we learned a lot the last two years,” Coordinator David Mashburn said. “It was a God-send in a way. We made some good adjustments. We examined our menu and looked for ways to be more efficient.”
“I think it’s been a better year in terms of engagement,” according to volunteer Alice White. “In the past people just went through the serving line, got their food, and sat down. There wasn’t as much interaction. Now people come in and we bring them their food and their drinks and there’s a lot more interaction between the volunteers and guests. Everyone seems to be much more at ease this year.”
Spanish-speaking volunteers help remove language barriers as well.
Shawn and Pauline Caldwell, representatives from the Pottstown Community, presented a plaque in appreciation for the Community Breakfast. Cards and notes flooded in as well.
“We all have to be ready for change,” Shawn said. “With purpose and action like we see here, we will make Huntersville a better place for everyone. Huntersville has changed a lot recently. We all have to be ready to embrace it,” Shawn said.
Financial support for the breakfast now comes from a meager budget and personal donations. Angels & Sparrow and Loaves & Fishes help with some food donations, but most items are purchased. After the last World Hunger Day, 5% of the money raised went to support the Community Breakfast.
Like many ministries of this type, it started with a simple idea.
“Being naïve I didn’t realize there was such a need in our community,” coordinator Patty Barnett said. “I ran into someone at a local grocery store that was buying food for a church that was filling backpacks for kids to take home on weekends. I hadn’t even thought about that.”
“I started thinking about resources we might not be utilizing at our church. I mentioned providing a breakfast to a few people, and they were like ‘that will never work’ there just isn’t enough money and volunteers.”
“Two years later, David and I were talking and David yells at someone walking by ‘I think I have a service project for us this summer fixing breakfast’. I said, I want to be involved in that! I grew up knowing the importance of having a meal together as a family and was excited about the prospects of that.”
“After the breakfast was going strong, we realized that many seniors were coming in. People are lonely. These mornings give them company as they sit down and eat,” Patty said. “It helps stretch everybody’s budget a little bit as well.”
“Kids love it.” David said. “There’s a family from Concord where the kids motivate their parents to come. They tell them, let’s get up and go to breakfast at church.”
“Several people have told me that the community did not come together like this before,” David said. This is their morning together. I remember well, the year there was a racially-motivated shooting in a Charleston church,” David recalls. “The question was ‘do we still have breakfast?’ The answer was absolutely. We had to. It was the most significant Saturday for me.”
Patty pointed out. “We never know who is going to come and we are not organized enough to have teams, but we always have enough help.” In the beginning, it was mostly church members who came to eat. Now it has shifted, and the greater Huntersville community is involved. Many people also take meals to elderly people who are not able to leave their homes.
“Every Saturday there are new people that haven’t been here before,” according to Alice. “We also notice when someone doesn’t show up. We ask around about them but sometimes we only know first names.”
“Hopefully they see and feel Christ’s presence,” David added. “I think it is one of the most significant ministries in this church.”
World Hunger Day has been a First Baptist Church tradition for 40 years. A huge yard sale, silent auction, and food vendors will take over the campus Saturday, September 25th starting at 7 a.m. Money raised will benefit local food ministries like the Community Breakfast, Loaves & Fishes, and more.