The Vashon Lutheran Church recently received a grant that will allow it to renovate its kitchen, enhance its participation in the island’s free meals program and reach out to the community at large.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a nonprofit financial services organization, awarded the church $5,000, according to Rev. Bjoern Meinhardt, the minister of Vashon Lutheran Church. Thrivent Financial will increase that amount by matching community donations 50 cents on the dollar, up to $5,000 from the community, by the end of March — for a potential gift of $7,500 from Thrivent.
The church plans to replace its modest kitchen with a commercial one, Meinhardt said. Such a move will allow for cooking at the church and provide much-needed freezer and refrigeration space.
“We are delighted that this allows us to be involved and contribute on a scale we could not afford otherwise,” Meinhardt said.
With the help of island churches and a host of volunteers, the Vashon Social Services Network expanded the free meals program that the Interfaith Council to Prevent Home-lessness (IFCH) began a decade ago. Now a hot meal is served seven days week, with volunteers purchasing, preparing and serving the meals. On Fridays, the Lutheran Church hosts the dinner.
The meals are important, Meinhardt noted, not just because they feed people, but because so many people have stepped up to make them happen.
“They are a wonderful show of force,” he said.
According to Meinhardt, Thrivent Financial was offering “outreach bridge grants” to assist with ongoing small-scale programs that serve communities at large, not just the churches themselves.
Roughly 600 Lutheran churches applied, Mein-hardt said, and 350 churches, including Vashon Lutheran Church, received the maximum amount.
Once the commercial kitchen is complete, volunteers for the meals program can prepare food there, and the church will provide the kitchen for other groups in the community as well, Meinhardt noted.
“The beneficiary is the community at large,” he said.
To raise money for the matching portion of the grant, Meinhardt said the church will host soup suppers on Thursday evenings during Lent and earmark the donations accordingly. He will also welcome donations from church and community members.
Meinhardt expects the remodel will require the lion’s share of the grant. Whatever is left over will be put to use for the meals program. “There is always an ongoing need,” he said.
Emma Amiad, the president of the IFCH, said she, too, is pleased about the grant and what it will mean for the program.
“The IFCH is thrilled, and everyone involved in the program is thrilled,” she said.
The church saw a need and pursued this grant on its own, she said, noting that it will create more options for both congregational and community use.
“The more options we have, the better,” she said.
Representatives from Thrivent Financial will attend the church’s service on Sunday, Feb. 24, and award the check publicly.