In the seven months since the Sesser-Valier Ministerial Alliance opened the 5 Loaves Café its success has been overwhelming.
The idea for the monthly event was born when federal budget cuts threatened the Meals on Wheels program. However, not all of those who come for dinner are senior citizens.
Linda Swinney said she and her family enjoy the fellowship. "We come every month," she said. "We enjoy seeing people we never get to see."
Swinney's husband Larry echoed that thought but had an even better reason for attending. "The food is really good," he said with a grin.
While the first month drew about 50 diners, last Thursday's Thanksgiving dinner served over 200.
The success of the event is largely due to the volunteers who come from all corners of the community. The Sesser area youth group helps to prepare meal deliveries made by the police department.
"They come out in droves every month," said Ashley Boker, one of the organizers. "They are a huge help."
Officer Richard Clemons has been with the Sesser PD for about three months. He is just one of those who deliver meals to those that can't get out. "I love giving back to the community, to those who can't come in and get their food," he said.
For the past three months, the "café" has offered yet another service to the community -- free blood pressure checks. Michelle Rollins, a registered nurse who works in a home health agency specializing in senior care, saw a need she could fill.
"If I can reach out to one person and maybe direct them on the path to their doctor or even a lifestyle change, then this is beneficial," she said.
Phyllis Pearson was one of over a dozen that took advantage of the free blood pressure check last week. "My blood pressure had been high earlier in the week," she said. "I'm thankful for a place to have it checked without having to go back to the doctor's office."
Sesser mayor Jason Ashmore said his community "is truly blessed" to have so much volunteer support.
"It is truly amazing to see all those that volunteer to make this monthly dinner possible," he said. "It is truly humbling to be the mayor of such a great community. I see this program continuing to grow and we support is 100 percent."
The next dinner is scheduled for Dec. 23. The 5 Loaves Café operates from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. or until the food runs out. Delivery can be arranged by calling 618-625-5092, and take-out is available.
Meals are free but donations are welcome. Anyone who would like to donate can contact Life-Line at P.O. Box 915, Sesser.