Personal — Passionate — Progressive
Organized by Bethesda Cares, provided by BPC! From 11:00am to 1:00pm every Saturday -- without exception -- church and community volunteers donate food, serve lunch, and provide clothing and other items as needed to an average of 40 homeless persons who come to our door, most of them men. Volunteers are always needed. To volunteer, please call Bethesda Cares: 301-907-9244.
Read more about our Lunch Program:
For the Homeless, a Gem in Bethesda
By Linda Wang
Walk by Bethesda Presbyterian Church too fast on a Saturday morning and you might miss the three small signs that provide the only hint that a miracle is happening inside. The wooden signs, which say “Saturday Lunch Program” in bright red letters, lead people to two brown doors on the side of the building. Through the doors is the church kitchen, where on a Saturday morning there is a hustle and bustle unusual for a city still stirring from slumber.
It's a little past 10:00 AM, and a group of volunteers has already begun setting up tables and chairs. Another group of volunteers is cutting up vegetables, washing fruits, and preheating the oven.
There is only one hour to prepare lunch before the 25 or so guests arrive, and there is plenty to do.
Since it began in the early 1990s, the Saturday Lunch Program has served thousands of lunches to the homeless and working poor in Montgomery County. The program, which is part of the nonprofit organization Bethesda Cares, is funded by its parent organization and also receives support from the church and individual donors.
“Are we ready to open?” asks one of the volunteer coordinators at 11:00am. One last check and the doors are unlocked. Guests file in and head straight to the serving counter. “What have you got?” one guest asks. On this blustery day, there is a choice of three hot casseroles, several types of sandwiches, and a hearty vegetable soup.
Part of what makes this program so popular is that every meal is different, and some of the dishes are prepared from scratch in the hour before guests arrive. John and Donna, two long-time volunteer coordinators, have in the past whipped up macaroni and cheese, meat lasagna, Sloppy Joes, beef stew, and spaghetti, among other classics. The program also makes an effort to accommodate guests' diets. For example, there is typically a vegetarian option on the menu. When asked how the volunteers manage to set up and prepare all the food in under an hour, John smiles and points to the heavens. “We are in a church,” he says.
The Saturday Lunch Program began in 1992 after Bethesda Cares contacted Bethesda Presbyterian Church about hosting lunch for the homeless on Saturday mornings. Over the years, the program has grown from a lunch-only location to a place where people can get clothes and other necessities such as soap, shampoo, and toothpaste.
Last updated by Chuck Booker-Hirsch Sep 10, 2010.