In 1981 a few people from the Board of Social Concerns of the First Baptist Church of Owego [FBCO] had a vision – that the churches of the community could provide free meals to feed the hungry in our community. They were Reverend Ken Simpson, Pastor of FBCO, Kathy Preston, and Lynn Kodey from the Baptist Church; Marilyn Oaks and Kate Feaveayear. Kathy Preston was chairperson of the Board of Social Concerns which was composed of both Baptists and other members of the community. In June 1981, they picked strawberries and sold them at the Village of Owego Annual Strawberry Festival as an initial fundraiser and as a result of the proceeds from this fundraiser were able to begin serving meals at FBCO in November 1981 In 1983 at a meeting of representatives including clergy from several area churches, the Allied Christians of Tioga (ACT) was organized. Al Smith, from the FBCO, felt a calling and agreed to be the first director of the organization. Attendance at the meals started slowly but soon grew to up to 100 hungry people. Meals were eventually moved to the United Methodist Church in Owego to better accommodate handicap access. Activities included serving weekly meals, a jail ministry, and youth programs. Now forty years later resulting from the vision of a few individuals, the weekly ACT meals is now a coalition of ten area churches that provide a free meal and fellowship each Thursday at the Owego United Methodist Church, located at 261 Main Street. Weekly attendance runs 50 – 80 people. Ruth Harders, coordinator for the Thursday evening meals, has commented many times, “The meal is open for anyone in need or just looking to spend a little time with others. Individuals or families who attend sometimes just like to stop in for the companionship, or some need to stretch their budget, while others regularly come each Thursday. Everyone who comes in gets a dinner, no questions are asked, and it’s become like home to a lot of people.” FBCO continues to host at the ACT dinners on the 2nd Thursday of every other month [January, March, May, July, and September] If you are interested in helping with any of the ACT dinners: contact Rich Saxton. As of this writing, FBCO is responsible for preparing the dinner for March 12th; this day being close to St. Patrick’s Day, we are planning on a corned beef and cabbage meal.
Many thanks to Kathy Preston and Al Smith for their input. This continues to be a vital ministry for all of us.
The Bible is short on specifics about the Judgment Day, but one question that may come up (Matthew 25:31-40) – Did you feed the hungry?