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Over the last year and a half, volunteers have served more than 20,000 free meals at The Rock Church in Castle Rock.
When Douglas County’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program expressed its difficulty in finding a venue to help the community, The Rock’s pastor, Mike Polhemus, stepped forward.
“We do it as a means to reach out to those that are struggling in our community. For The Rock, it’s about reaching outside the walls of our church and being the literal hands and feet of Jesus,” said Sylvia Barahona, The Rock’s children’s pastor.
TANF funds a portion of the Wednesday night meals in addition to necessities like groceries, gasoline cards and housing. At the church, items such as gently used clothing and groceries are available in what is dubbed the “blessing room.”
“We like to refer to our blessing room as our mini boutique,” said Lindy Killmer, the pastor who heads the “care counselors.”
Panera Bread and Kneaders also contribute baked goods for families to enjoy at the church or take home and eat later.
About 40 volunteers come in to work alongside a chef every Wednesday morning, help serve, or clean up afterward. Volunteers range from teens to adults, and come from The Rock or area churches, like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We offer a full-course buffet-style dinner, with tables to sit,” Barahona said. “We also allow to-go meals as well.”
Volunteers at The Rock developed response teams to help guide the needy through available resources such as medical care, child care and housing.
“It’s difficult to see the need in Douglas County because it is so well hidden. Oftentimes there are families that come in that have not had a full-course meal in a long time, let alone a meal they can sit down and eat together,” Barahona said. “We have had people in tears because they are so thankful to have a meal, and to go home with fresh Panera and Kneaders bread, groceries and a few new clothing pieces.”
A group of seniors from the Auburn Ridge community come faithfully every week. The group includes an 87-year-old who drives himself every week, and celebrated his birthday, but also mourned the loss of his wife with this community.
“This chef-prepared community gathering is regularly attended by individuals from all walks of life,” Killmer said.
Killmer said two women who live in their car come regularly for the meal, socializing and gathering necessities for the upcoming week. Another woman, a single mother, comes weekly with her two children, mainly for the community.
“The meals serve as a great first touch to get people a free dinner, but more importantly, connection,” Barahona said.
When: Wednesday Nights from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Rock Church, 4881 Cherokee Drive, Castle Rock,
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