Church, homeless advocates start food trailer for Butler County

A Butler County church and a homeless organization are partnering to reinstate a weekly free breakfast program.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Middletown’s First United Methodist Church, 120 S. Broad St., suspended its weekly Monday morning “Breakfast Club” that operated for nearly three decades, said Pastor John Wagner.

He said many of the church volunteers are older and it wasn’t safe for them to serve people in close quarters.

So Serving Homeless Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM) looked at ways to reinstate the program while maintaining safe distances, said Bill Fugate, program coordinator of the homeless organization.

He said SHALOM acquired a concession/food trailer from donors who prefer to remain anonymous.

The food will be prepared by a church group inside the church and SHALOM leaders will carry the meals out to the trailer for distribution. These meals will be carryout only, unlike the former breakfasts where the guests were allowed to stay, sit down and socialize with those preparing the meals, Fugate said.

The program begins Monday, and meals will be served from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the church.

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“This is an experiment in a new way of continuing to serve the community, the homeless and less fortunate,” Fugate said. “We see this as an opportunity that if not for the pandemic would probably have not been considered as a way to serve others.”

Wagner said local pastors, churches and service organizations are trying to find new ways to minister to the most vulnerable among while minimizing risk to volunteers and employees and those being served.

“This requires major adjustments in how we do things, which is why we’re grateful for the opportunity to work with SHALOM and their food truck and see if we can’t offer some kindness this way, and do so safely,” he said.

SHALOM hopes to add meals, not only at FUMC but in the community early in 2021, he said. The plan, he said, would be for SHALOM to partner with some local restaurants, organizations and individuals to use this trailer to distribute excess or unused food that may otherwise go to waste.

The food trailer will also be made available to any of the SHALOM churches to use in serving food or distributing other items, Fugate said.

SHALOM, a church-based homeless shelter, will not operate this year due to COVID-19. Typically, SHALOM operates throughout the winter and hosts the homeless at Middletown area churches.

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