St. Maria of Paris
Community Outreach Ministry
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:35
It has been almost two years since the initial seeds were planted for organizing a free dinner for those in need in our community. Through the support of our parish, this vision has now become a reality and we are proud to report on the successful delivery of the first 12 weeks of community dinner offerings.
The St. Maria of Paris Community Dinner is an activity of the St. Maria of Paris Outreach Ministry. The mission of the ministry is to provide much needed physical and spiritual nourishment to low-income men, women and children of the Norfolk area. Inspired by St. Maria of Paris (Saint Maria Skobtsova), the ministry caters to anyone in need without judgment or discrimination.
The Community Dinner is a weekly event during which a free meal is prepared by volunteer parishioners and delivered in our Hellenic Center to anyone who wishes to attend. Initially advertised through local non-profit outreach ministries and eventually through word-of-mouth, attendance has grown from 20 guests (and 35 portions served) to over 60 guests (and over 80 portions served) for a total of 414 guests (and 567 portions served). The dinner always begins with a prayer, providing an opportunity to share our faith with our guests. Emphasizing the mission of the ministry as well as the hospitality associated with our Greek heritage, guests do not have to wait in line to get food, instead are seated and served by volunteer parishioners, something that has not gone unnoticed by guests. Another thing that has not gone unnoticed is the welcoming and nurturing atmosphere created by our volunteer greeters, servers and cooks as well as the superb quality of the meals, again courtesy of our heritage. The age of community dinner guests varies from children to elderly. They all appreciate the physical nourishment but a lot seem to appreciate the hospitality and opportunity to socialize with each other in an environment that would otherwise be out of reach.
To manage the workload associated with the weekly preparation and delivery of the dinner, volunteers are organized in teams, each team organizing a meal once every few months. This provides a sustainable level of effort for everyone involved. The outpouring of support and volunteers is a great testament to the goodwill, generosity and energy of our parish. We hope and pray that everyone in the parish can participate in this ministry, either by offering time or much needed resources to sustain the ministry.
For information regarding the Community Dinner or offers to volunteer time or resources,
please call any of the following:
Yiannis Papelis, Chair: 757-440-0500
Cindy Dragas, Treasurer: 757-440-0500
Debbie Woodell, Recording Secretary: 757-440-0500
Antonios Leondaridis, Pantry Manager: 757-440-0500