Salem Kroc Center partners for a community dinner

The Salvation Army and Salem Alliance Church join forces to feed the community.

SalemDinner02The Salem, Ore., Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center’s social service agency partnered with Salem Alliance Church for a free community dinner  Feb. 21. Salem Alliance hosted the first-time event, which drew 85 community members.  

“There are often several organizations that serve special meals around the holidays,” said Salem Kroc Corps Officer Major John Stennett. “Instead of duplicating services by offering another Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, we wanted to do something different this year and offer a meal opportunity after all the holidays.”

Salvation Army Chef Eric Flath, who coordinates food and beverage operations for the Kroc Center and the Lighthouse Shelter, prepared the food and came into the dining area to greet people.

Volunteers from The Salvation Army and Salem Alliance served the meal and ate with the guests, listening to their stories and offering to pray for and with them.

“I loved the people at my table,” Mary, one of the volunteers, said. “[It was] very humbling…They said I was a blessing to them. I should have paid someone for letting me come.”

In past years, The Salvation Army served smaller Thanksgiving and Christmas meals at its Lighthouse Shelter, but saw fewer people at these dinners.

“With the shelter closed for renovations over the holidays, it prompted us to think outside the box,” Stennett said. “We are excited to partner with Salem Alliance to host a large event.”

Salem Alliance has partnered with The Salvation Army for a number of years, starting with financial support and then offering employment support for shelter residents through job skills classes.

“As a church, we want to expand our partnerships beyond checks; we want to collaborate and look for ways to make genuine connections,” said Pastor Gordon Bergman, pastor of Pastoral Care for Salem Alliance. “We both come from the same foundation of faith and are driven by how we can impact others, so it was an easy decision to bring this dinner to the community together.”

The Salvation Army and Salem Alliance plan to make this an annual event and expect to feed many more people in the coming years.

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