200 people fed for free during Union Gospel Mission’s first Easter Sunday meal in years

200 people fed for free during Union Gospel Mission’s first Easter Sunday meal in years

200 people fed for free during Union Gospel Mission’s first Easter Sunday meal in years

For the first time in years on Easter Sunday, Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities dished out meals for any and everyone who could use a hot plate.

It seemed only seconds passed from the opening of the chapel doors just before 11 a.m. to when full plates landed in front of people.

Minutes later, clean plates were replenished with cookies and souls with some good old-fashioned grace.

“Here at Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities, we say hope begins with a meal,” said community relations director Sarah Peterka.

On an average day, Peterka said they serve roughly 170 people a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the men’s shelter campus in St. Paul. That number was closer to 200 people on Sunday, including women who were just as welcome to dine in the chapel.

Men’s shelter resident and St. Paul native John Roberts said that if you learn anything from a stay or a meal at the Union Gospel Mission, it’s that “sometimes you need a little help” and that you remember to lend a hand in return too.

“I did volunteer to help, but they didn’t need any helpers,” he shared, adding, “I’m not really a religious person, but… this place definitely helps people… they’ve helped me a lot.”

Roberts also acknowledged that warm and fuzzy feeling isn’t easy to come by when you’re living in shelter housing, and that was not lost on the volunteers in the chapel on Sunday.

“Every holiday, I know, ‘Hey, I’m coming here.’ And I’m able to help anybody or to have a conversation and see how they are doing through these rough times,” said 23-year-old volunteer Kris Kleist.

“And I really, really like to see people smile,” she continued, adding that the many interactions she has had helping with meal service have also been a lesson in gratitude.

“A few of them were like, ‘I’m really grateful that I’m living and I’m surviving. And I’m doing well, and I’m able to eat.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s really eye-opening,'” Kleist shared.

“They’re really grateful on just the simple things.”

Peterka said she started inquiring with her supervisor and staff about bringing back the Easter Sunday meal and everyone was on board. After the plates were served on Sunday, she said they’ll definitely be doing it again in the years ahead.

“It was a pretty obvious we’ve got to bring it back to the community. So first year, not the last year, we’re going to bring it back every year,” Peterka said.

For anyone in need of food, shelter, addiction and other health services, the Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities has specifics and contact information on its “Get Help” page.