“We’re going back into our past, and this is helping us get a better grip on our historic identity,” said Woods, pastor of the church west of downtown Fort Worth.
Gethsemane Presbyterian not only was one of 11 faith-based organizations in Fort Worth that founded Meals on Wheels in 1973, but also was its original headquarters. Over the last four decades, Gethsemane’s involvement with the charity waned. Now, recognizing its 40th anniversary, Meals on Wheels is reaching out to Gethsemane, other founders and the rest of the faith community in Tarrant County, asking for a special offering during this weekend’s services, said Keith Harrison, a Meals on Wheels spokesman.
“That first week,” in 1973 “they fed 25 people,” Harrison said. “Today — 40 years later — we serve all of Tarrant County and deliver nearly 1 million meals each year to seniors and other home-bound individuals.”
Feeding one person for a day costs $5.50, Harrison said. Feeding one for a week costs $27.50; for a month, $110; for a year, $1,430.
Considering what the original 11 groups accomplished, “Just imagine what can happen when hundreds of faith-based groups come together with a common vision,” Harrison said.
Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger said that being one of the founding organizations was fitting for Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarwood Road in Fort Worth. The membership has a tradition of community involvement, “as Judaism is about ‘tikun olam,’ making the world a better place through our actions,” Mecklenburger said. “That is one of the chief ways to serve God.”
Texas has the fourth-highest rate of senior hunger in the country, Mecklenburger said. Sometimes, poverty is the problem; but often it’s just that they “are alone and unable to cook, much less travel to stores or restaurants,” he said. “The issue is the need for warm meals, and that transcends religious, racial and economic distinctions.”
Meals on Wheels long ago moved out of Gethsemane, but when Woods met with Harrison at the charity’s office at 320 South Freeway recently, she was stunned by an artifact of Gethsemene’s earlier involvement.
“One of the heart-tugging things that has opened our eyes in the last couple of months is when I visited their office there was a giant poster picture of [late Gethsemene member] Connie Gonzalez receiving a meal at her front door, in the house directly across the street from our church,” Woods said. “It hit home in a very personal way.”
Meals on Wheels has remained an important part of the overall mission of another founding church, said Dr. Brent Beasley, senior pastor of Broadway Baptist Church.
“A huge part of our ministry is feeding the hungry,” said Beasley, whose church also is involved with the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition. “Meals on Wheels is one of the important ways we’re involved in doing that.”
How to give
Meals on Wheels Pass the Plate Day is Sunday, according to a proclamation by Tarrant County Judge B. Glen Whitley. Every faith-based group in Tarrant County is asked to take a special offering.
If you are unaffiliated with a group, but would like to donate, or if you or someone you know needs assistance, call 817-336-0912 or go to mealsonwheels.org.