By Stan Friedman
MURPHYS, CA (June 13, 2013) – One Wednesday a month, restaurant owners Liz and Craig Dickson serve dinner to as many as 100 people without charge. And they deliver.
The Dicksons attend Grace Hills Bible Church, A Covenant church in Angels Camp, and call the ministry FEED United, which stands for Food and Encouragement Express Delivery.
“There are various needs for these people,” she says. “One woman is 95 and can’t drive, one man’s wife died of cancer this past year and he is trying to raise three young kids on his own, and one family has been the victim of racial discrimination. We will usually just deliver one time to families that have a brand new baby or if someone in the family recently had surgery, etc.”
The ministry learns of additional families through friends, church members, and even some of the restaurants’ customers.
Liz says the ministry was honored to serve during a solemn occasion recently. “We had the privilege of making a meal for a group of Marines who were in town for the memorial service of a fellow Marine.”
On the regular delivery days, as many as 20 people gather at the Dicksons’ restaurant, El Jardin, and volunteer for a variety of tasks that include cooking, packaging, and delivering the meals. In addition, other people make cookies, finger desserts, and salads that are dropped off at the restaurant and then added to the bags.
Kids are among the volunteers. Earlier this year, the eighth grade basketball team from one of the local junior highs assisted. “Younger kids can get involved by hand-writing cards to the families that receive the meals,” Dickson says. They also help with packaging and labeling.
“The process goes very quickly once we get started,” Liz says. “A few of us get to the restaurant at 3 p.m. to set up and prepare the food. The food assembly volunteers arrive at 4:30 p.m. and we begin the assembly and packaging.”
The ministry serves people in three small towns in the rural mountain county, so the volunteers divide into three teams to deliver the meals.
“By 4:45, the first area’s meals are out the door and we are usually done,” Liz says. “One of our volunteers comes straight over after work and helps with dishes and clean up.”
The Dicksons started the ministry last December. “In the beginning, it was a little awkward to call people and ask them if we could deliver a meal to their home,” Liz says. “No one wants to feel like they are a charity case or receiving a handout. One lady even asked me if it was a joke!
“Now we find ourselves in casual conversations with people and it will turn into saying, can I bring you dinner next ____? Or, you sound like you could use a break from the daily grind . . . some friends and I are going to bring your family dinner on such and such day.”
In May, the ministry did a “test run” of another idea made possible by the donation of a new freezer and vacuum sealer by a man from church. “After we made and delivered the meals on our list, we vacuum-packed 40 more burritos to be handed out as needed to people in our community,” Liz says.
Liz says the couple hopes they can expand FEED United to more than once a month at some point. “This ministry is taking on a life of it’s own and we are just trying to be open to going wherever the Holy Spirit leads us,” Liz says. “It has been an awesome journey thus far.”
The Dicksons have been amazed at how many of the volunteers have thanked them for providing the opportunity to serve. “It shows us that people really are interested in getting involved and helping others, but they often times don’t know how or where to begin,” Liz says.
Other volunteers have wanted to pass on the kindness they have received, says Liz. “There have been a couple of families that have received a meal from us one month and then contacted us to help out the following months.”