A Community Collaboration
At the beginning of the pandemic, Vingenzo’s chef, Michael Bologna, knew he wanted to do something to help feed people in need. Now, more than two years later, volunteers have distributed more than 14,000 meals through Meals for Woodstock, a community collaboration that provides free, hot food for those in need.
In 2020, Bologna reached out to Ron Anspaugh, chaplain of the Woodstock Police Department, about his idea of using his restaurant to feed families, said Doug Whitney, community pastor at First Baptist Woodstock. “Ron contacted me, and, then, we got several other churches involved, along with the city of Woodstock.”
Leaders from Woodstock-area churches, Vingenzo’s and the city of Woodstock first met in June 2020, and on Aug. 18, 2020, they held the first Meals for Woodstock event. “That Tuesday, we handed out right at 300 meals,” Whitney said. “We knew then that this was a need in our community.”
Now, from 4 to 6 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, volunteers from Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal, First Baptist Woodstock, Linked Up Church North, The Way Woodstock and Vida City churches, as well as Woodstock Police Department, the city of Woodstock and other organizations, gather to give out around 275 meals at Vingenzo’s, 105 E. Main St.
Handing out information cards, putting posters in windows of local businesses and utilizing Facebook are some of the ways word gets out to those in need, Whitney said. And, it works, as several new families show up on distribution days each month. “The best part, for me, is the collaboration between several different churches and the city of Woodstock,” Whitney said. “It’s not about one organization. It’s just about helping those that need a little extra support. What better way to do that than through incredible, fresh meals from a great chef.”
For the past two years, Bologna has sourced, ordered and prepared the food for each Meals for Woodstock distribution day. Laynie Jones, of First Baptist Woodstock, handles the sign-up process for the volunteers who help make each event a success. The significance of being involved in this effort is not lost on the organizers and volunteers, especially during the holiday season, which is difficult for many. “I’m extremely grateful to serve with such a great group of folks that just want to help others. The team makes each person feel loved and seen as they distribute the hot cooked meals,” Whitney said. “We love to see the thankfulness on the faces of the individuals who come for meals.”
To support the effort with a monetary contribution, visit https://bit.ly/3WAcWOv; 100% of funds raised goes to the purchase of food for the program. To volunteer, visit https://bit.ly/3SWEef3, or email email@example.com.