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Mon, Sept. 23

Interfaith Outreach' free meals offer food, friendship to seniors, families and more

PRESCOTT VALLEY - Almost a centenarian, Esther Dorsch revels in her independence.

She still drives and lives on her own.

Once in a while, though, like many senior citizens, Esther enjoys the chance to dress up and go spend some time with others, particularly if that means she does not have to prepare a meal.

The Interfaith Outreach in Prescott Valley offers Dorsch, and about 100 other people, including seniors, working families and local churchgoers, that chance four times a month.

The all-volunteer operation serves up a hearty, free meal for the once-a-week event that rotates between three local churches - Trinity Lutheran, Emmanuel Lutheran and St. Germaine Catholic - with Mingus View Presbyterian and Prescott Valley United Methodist offering weekly bag lunches. St. Vincent DePaul subsidizes the cost of the meals at St. Germaine's.

For Dorsch and several other senior women, this 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. lunch is more than a free meal, although they admit that is a nice perk.

The menu this particular Tuesday at St. Germaine's is a homemade corn chowder, a fresh fruit salad, homemade rolls and two kinds of creamy desserts, one peach and one cherry-flavored "fluff."

A four-some of ladies attending the Feb. 11 lunch say they most appreciate the chance to fellowship with people they might otherwise not encounter without spending more than they can afford. Many of those who attend the weekly meal are on fixed incomes.

If not for this interfaith program, Joni Myers said she'd likely be home alone.

"I'd probably be home in front of the TV with a peanut butter sandwich," said Myers, part of a View Point Senior Community group who carpools to the interfaith luncheons.

"I love it," declared Pat Koffman, one of the volunteers. "I think it's a great idea. Sometimes we see regulars, and sometimes we get new people."

The doors are open to anyone; whether someone can afford to pay or not is not a criteria.

One man and his wife came for lunch, and their thank you was a check to cover the cost of the next one.

"It's just awesome to be a part of this, to be part of giving back to the community," declared Mary Dutra whose church supports this ministry.

"The lunches are fantastic, and the fellowship is just so nice," said fellow View Point resident Dorothy Opdyke. "The workers are superb. They can't do enough for you."

Started in 2004, the program has become a staple for many seniors and working families who need that little extra boost in their week, declared St. Germaine's member and volunteer Mary Dahl. St. Germaine just added a second Tuesday so what was a three-meal-a-month program is now four days a month.

An outreach goal in the "foreseeable future" is to find a central location where these volunteers can serve a daily meal similar to what is done in Prescott, Dahl said. Lack of public transportation prevents many of those who live in Prescott Valley from accessing the free daily meal service in neighboring Prescott, she said.

"Prescott Valley doesn't have a large homeless population, but we do have working poor and senior poor, as well as those who just need some fellowship," Dahl said.

"This is a very thoughtful thing for people to do," Dorsch concluded.

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