Meals fill stomachs, build community in Eagle
Eagle, CO Colorado
EAGLE, Colorado” The aroma wafting from the bubbling crockpot of ham and bean soup promises a hearty, filling dinner in Eagle, Colorado. The friendly chatter of the small crowd promises good company.
There is perhaps no more simple act of community than sitting down and sharing a meal with neighbors.
That’s why every Monday evening, the United Methodist Church of the Eagle Valley is hosting a “Simple Supper” gathering. Any member of the community is invited to stop in at the church, located at the intersection of Second and Howard streets in Eagle, to share the meal.
On a recent Monday evening, in addition to the soup, the modest spread included a lasagna (dropped off by a woman who is not a member of the congregation but wanted to contribute), a pot of spaghetti, a bowl of salad greens, croissants donated by the Costco bakery, and a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies.
The people who came to share the dinner included several longtime church members, a family that was passing through and saw the banner advertising the free supper, and a few people who are relatively new to the community.
“The importance of friends and communities deepens during hard economic times,” says Pastor Sid Spain, who leads the congregation.
What the simple supper offers, he says, is an opportunity for people to have a conversation over a good, hearty meal.
Don’t confuse the simple supper with a soup kitchen. It is for everybody. Some participants may be in need. Others are definitely well-heeled. They are all part of the community.
Spain proposed the simple supper idea to his congregation after Costco offered to donate its day-old bakery products.
“The congregation was not wanting to go slowly. They said, ‘let’s do it,'” says Spain.
Cheryl Thomas stepped up to coordinate the weekly dinner. So far, donations of hot soups and casseroles have come from church members and from people outside the church who just want to support the effort.
“We need to band together in our community to support people in hard times,” says church member Cynthia Sibley.
Church member Tom Allen notes that United Methodist has always worked at having a strong community presence.
That’s exactly why Eagle Ranch residents Bob and Diane Holmes showed up for this week’s simple supper. “We enjoy a church that’s socially active,” says Bob.
Diane made the pot of ham and bean soup.
Spain says there’s no preaching or recruiting. In fact, on a recent Monday, the dinner conversation ranged from the general state of the economy to college football to the news about the diners’ kids. The conversation is lively. The atmosphere is upbeat.
Spain says the simple supper participants to date have included several young families, a group of Argentine college students with work visas who had trouble finding jobs at the ski resorts this year, and retirees. The largest supper group to date has been about 35 people. More would be welcome. The congregation has found that word-of-mouth is the best invitation.
“There’s a lot of networking going on. Any time people get together, good things happen,” says Spain, “If they are strangers, we want them to be strangers for the first time only.”
Church members hope the event will continue to expand. Spain talks of recruiting a guitar player or other musician to provide some entertainment.
In the first six weeks, the supper has gotten off to a modest start. The dinner crowd tends to trickle in over the course of an hour.
There’s a sign-up sheet for people who want to donate food. Others just walk in the door with donations. At least three other local churches have offered to provide food for the simple supper.
“It’s a wonderful collaboration of the faith-based community,” Thomas says.
“The people who walk out the door at night have really had a boost to their week,” adds Spain, “whether it is the cooks who made the supper, or the recipients.”