New Milford church, restaurants team up to feed those in need
NEW MILFORD — More than a hundred cars recently filed through the parking lot at Faith Church as people in need collected bags of food.
“There was an overwhelming response and an overwhelming need,” said John Hodge, one of the congregation members.
It’s a sight that will soon become a fixture on Wednesday evenings, as the church expands its program to offer hot meals from local restaurants for at least the next eight weeks through a program dubbed “Manna from Heaven.” By doing this, the church hopes to help local eateries dealing with a drop in business, as well as people who might be having a hard time because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“We feel this is our responsibility in a time of crisis to share the love of God with people,” the Rev. Frank Santora said.
The idea came about as Santora and his team looked for the greatest needs in the community. The church already works with the Connecticut Food Pantry to distribute food on the first Wednesday every month and saw this as a way to build on that model.
“We said we need to do this more than once a month, and we need to do it in a way to put money back in the community,” he said.
The meals are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis between 4 and 6 p.m. in the church parking lot. The meals will be given to people in their cars. It is open to anyone in need, not just New Milford residents.
This week will also include a chocolate cross for children to celebrate Easter, which is on Sunday.
DinerLuxe is the first of four restaurants selected for the initiative, along with Victoria’s Wood Fire Pizza in Bethel. The church has committed to use each restaurant for two of the eight weeks. It will spending $10,000 each month, split between the four establishments for a total $20,000, Santora said.
He said the restaurants were selected for everything they do for the community on a regular basis.
“They’re right here in our area,” Santora said. “They’ve been generous to the community in events we’ve had over the years. We wanted to return the favor.”
Kimberly Reed, a manager at DinerLuxe, said the restaurant’s owner, Dimitrios Kitsios, and general manager Soula Dimeas have always looked for ways to help. She said the church is such a big part of the community, with the diner even offering chicken soup to church singers after performances and helping out with Thanksgiving dinner.
“We call ourselves family through food,” Reed said, adding it’s regardless of denomination.
DinerLuxe has been partnering with Faith Church for about two years now.
Reed said the church buying 250 meals for the first Wednesday food distribution also allows more people to come back to work.
“By Faith Church using us, it’s putting people to work also,” Reed said. “It’s beautiful.”
Community members can donate to the effort on the church’s website to expand the offerings, though Santora said asking for donations is not the point of the outreach.
“Our heart is not to receive something, it’s to give something,” he said.
Hodge said donations would allow them to offer more meals.
“As time goes by, the need is going to be even greater, especially if unemployment checks take five weeks,” he said.