Approximately 300 meals provided at Saturday’s meal

A free community dinner on Saturday fed and supported hungry local residents. Lunch held in the fellowship hall of the Mexico United Methodist Church was served from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and included ham sandwiches, chicken soup, chili, desserts and drinks. Approximately 130 individuals attended the meal. Volunteers also served more than 148 carry outs to total nearly 300 meals.
The Rev. Karen Taylor said that the church was contacted by Denise Harrington, who offered to manage the meal if the church would be willing to host the event. Harrington is attempting to reach out to other area churches that maybe willing to put on similar free meals, though Mexico United Methodist will likely be hosting again next year.
Harrington received an A. P. Green Foundations grant three years ago, with which she offered free supper to local people in need every night for the summer. "From there you see how much need there is in the community and want to help more. Now we want the whole community to get involved," Harrington said. "God provides and today we have more than enough food to give."
Ann Runge took over some of the operation after Harrington underwent back surgery recently. Runge and Harrington were busy serving visitors throughout the meal, but Runge took time to say, "We had a wonderful event with a lot of community involvement. We have public health here for free blood pressure checks, Simply Strings volunteered their time and performed beautifully. Memories by Kathy is offering free family photos, which will be emailed to the families. I'm very pleased with how things have gone."
Simply Strings is an acoustic quintet who performed throughout the event. Instrumentation included mountain dulcimer, violin, guitar and bowed psaltery.
During the meal, donated certificates were raffled away for Porky's, Illusions Hair Salon, and Jim Stubblefield Furniture.
Monetary donations were received from the community.  Harrington said contributions for next year's meal would be greatly appreciated.
Allen Chandler hopes to mirror the event in the soon-to-open Vandalia center for the homeless and hungry. The center will open in February as part of the Vandalia housing authority at 200 South Main. The center will offer 10 beds, where the needy can stay for up to seven nights, after which time they will be transferred to the Callaway center for longer periods. Chandler said he thinks that the center will frequently be at capacity.
The Help Center in Mexico and the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri in Columbia will provide food to be distributed in Vandalia.
Chandler has applied for grants, but will not know if they will be received until February.
All those staying in the center will be asked to volunteer time in the community. Computers and job postings will be available for those seeking employment. Chandler has also offered to pay the high school equivalency testing fees for serious inquirers, yet no one has taken him up on the offer thus far.