By Cindy Solomon

Sparta’s Bon Air United Methodist Church received a $10,000 grant to help fund a new meal ministry for low-income older adults. The grant is from ENCORE Ministry.

The ministry, Impact Senior Meals, began in May 2022.

About 28 percent of White County residents are senior citizens. Sixteen percent of residents live at or below the poverty rate — higher than the national average. The largest group living in poverty is women over 75 years old, followed by women 54 – 65 years old.

“I learned about these stats while working on a paper for a class,” said Bon Air Pastor Rodney R. Ritchie. “I remember thinking, ‘As a church, if we really think of ourselves as the hands and feet of Christ, we need to do something about this because there is a huge need for meals for senior citizens in our community.’

“Many senior citizens have to decide which bills — food, medication, and so forth — to pay each month. If we can help with food, that frees up money to pay for medication and other bills.”

Money from the grant helps buy food for Impact Senior Meals. With volunteer help from a food trailer owner and church members, Impact Senior Meals provides one meal a day each weekday to 25 senior citizens at no cost to the recipients.

“Not only does Impact Senior Meals help church and community members stretch their money farther, our healthy meals enable them to eat better,” Ritchie said.

Meal recipient Paula B. looks forward to her hot, healthy meals and visiting with the volunteers delivering them. For Ruby M., the meals save her money on grocery bills and helps her pay for the numerous medications she must take.

While helping seniors, the ministry also provides church members with opportunities to serve the church and community.

“I’ve had several people who were looking for ways they could serve the church and others,” Ritchie said. “This ministry allows them to dive in and volunteer their time.

“I want to thank ENCORE Ministry for being a partner on this journey. We want people to know that God loves them and so do the members of Bon Air UMC.”

Looking ahead, Ritchie says he would love to see the program grow so they could serve nutritious meals to every senior citizen in White County. That is a wonderful — and tasty — goal.