It's a little like old home week when downtown residents gather at First United Methodist Church for the monthly Interfaith Forum Saturday Night Dinner Out.
People start trickling into the church fellowship hall as much as half an hour ahead of the 5 p.m. dinner hour. They see old friends, catch up on news, even look over the prizes available for the bingo game that follows dinner.
As more and more people settle in, the host church gets dinner ready.
-Messenger photo by Sandy Mickelson
Rich Houge, left, and Doug Utley, members of First Covenant Church, pulled dish duty at the Saturday meal put on by the Interfaith Forum at First United Methodist Church. Different churches make and serve the meal each month, and provide bingo prizes.
Last week, members of First Covenant Church put on the dinner, cleaned up after it and provided prizes for bingo. For the March 28 meal, Epworth United Methodist Church will be in charge.
"It's a fun event, and it's easy to do," said the Rev. Rob Sabin of First Covenant. "It's a practical way to help out. It's people they see around town, and that makes it a little more like helping people they're connected with."
Sabin stopped beside Richard Banks, 53, who had just chosen a Bible for his first bingo prize.
Interfaith Forum dinners
On the fourth Saturday of every month, the Interfaith Forum sponsors Saturday Night Dinner Out for downtown residents. The dinner starts at 5 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 127 N. Tenth St., and is followed by bingo games.
Area churches provide the dinner and prizes. For the rest of the year, they are:
March 28: Epworth United Methodist Church.
April 25: First Presbyterian Church.
May 23: First Congregational United Church of Christ.
June 27: Holy Trinity Catholic parishes.
July 25: First Baptist Church.
Aug. 22: First United Methodist.
Sept. 26: St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
Oct. 24: Grace Lutheran Church.
Nov. 28: St. Olaf Lutheran and Community of Christ, of Coalville.
Dec. 26: Interfaith Forum executive team and Bethany House.
"That's today's new English version," Sabin told Banks. "There's not many thees and thous in there."
Banks grinned. "I got what I wanted," he said. "I grabbed this one. I just bought one not too long ago - now this makes three of them."
The out-of-work Banks lives at the Biltwell Apartments and is looking for work. He's studied computer networking at Iowa Central Community College, but has more classes to take, he said, adding "There's a lot of opportunity in the computer field these days."
Banks attends First Christian Church, where he cooks on Thursdays for the children's program. "I'm a good cook," he said. "I'm unemployed, but I try to do what I can."
Turning his attention to the last plate of cookies, Banks said, "I've never gone away hungry. It's always been a good meal."
Paula Laird, 52, lives in her own apartment in Fort Dodge and provides peer support at the Friendship Center in the Bank of America building.
"I help them if they have problems," she said. "That's mostly confidential. I just started, part time. It makes me feel good to help other people."
Laird said she tries to make it to all the Saturday Night Dinner Out meals. "The meal shows support of other people and knowing we can all walk our lives together."
That's what Interfaith Forum President Donna Esmay likes to hear.
"It's a real expression of recognizing ministry in the downtown area," she said about the dinners. "It's such an opportunity for members of all the churches to be able to share in this ministry."
Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org