Bremer County Community Foundation
January 31, 2017
Every Monday, volunteers come together at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Waverly to put on a home cooked feast, offering food and fellowship at the Saints Café. This community meal is the collaboration of six area churches including Saint Paul’s, Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, Trinity Methodist Church, Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Redeemer Lutheran Church and Heritage Methodist Church. The no-cost meal is open to all residents in Bremer County.
Started ten years ago, the first meal had three people in attendance. In 2015, 9,782 meals were served and the numbers continue to grow. Meeting this community need is not possible without a committed volunteer effort – over 3,000 volunteer hours in 2015 alone.
“All six churches working on one mission and one ministry. Our ministry is serving a nutritious meal free of charge to anyone in any need,” said Jim O’Donnell, Saints Café volunteer. “It’s available to the community. It’s our mission to do this and it’s worked well.”
Producing the impact Saints Café has on the community takes generosity of individuals and local businesses who understand the need for the weekly gatherings and donate the approximately $14,000 in-kind food items.
Grants from the Bremer County Community Foundation and Waverly Community Fund have also been part of lessening the financial burden on the churches. From 2012 through 2016 the Saints Café program has been awarded $16,450 in grants. Grants have supported a variety of needs including purchasing paper products and supplies needed to serve, to assisting with transportation provided to those who need a ride to Saints Café.
“As we continue to grow, the cost is going to go up. It’s not a small amount for the churches either, but the grants help stretch that,” said O’Donnell.
“By the grants helping with the non-food items, it frees up the churches to provide a more nutritious meal. That ability wouldn’t be an option without it,” added fellow volunteer, Dixie Jacobs.
The generosity of the community stretches the churches’ budgets, allowing Saints Café to lessen the burden felt on its patrons’ pockets. The people utilizing this delicious and critical service vary, including vulnerable populations such as seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families.
“It really extends their food budget,” said Jacobs. “When you add four meals a month with children, it stretches their already tight budget.”
Saints Café is not just a place to go for those in need of a good meal. The program has created a safe space where friends, family and strangers from all walks of life can gather, and it has become an integral piece of helping people thrive in Bremer County.