No strings, just free lunch. Ministry offers to help hungry.
Some come from the Mesa State College campus across the street, poor and hungry.
Others come from who knows where, toting who knows what personal turmoil.
They arrive on foot and in cars. Some have tied-up dogs or sick babies.
They all come here, to the northeast corner of 12th Street and North Avenue, where a long-abandoned service station has found new life as a place where anyone can grab a free lunch — and sometimes something worth more than a full stomach.
The Servant Evangelism program at Canyon View Vineyard Church started doing this every Thursday two years ago. Operating out of an old Wonder Bread truck, a handful of volunteers and staff set up tables and assemble bagged lunches containing a sandwich, chips, dessert and a drink. The church purchases the food from Food Bank of the Rockies.
The program began as a way to serve hungry college students.
“But it’s gotten so everybody comes,” church staffer Vicki McGee said.
Some people try to give a few bucks as a symbol of gratitude. The church declines their money because, as church member and volunteer Millie Dershem points out, “If they donate, then it’s not a free lunch.”
There are no strings attached. Just a smile and a simple question: “Would you like some lunch?” Perhaps a “God bless you.” Sometimes, though, there is more.
Last Thursday, dozens of college students streamed across 12th Street. One woman pulled up in a car. She had just lost her job, and her family had no food. A couple of volunteers gently laid hands on her shoulder and spoke a quiet prayer.
Another woman, who was dressed in heels and black slacks, quietly grabbed two lunches before getting into the passenger side of a Cadillac that was driven away. She looked like she could have sat down in any restaurant in town and bought anything on the menu.
Maybe she could have. Then again, maybe she couldn’t.
That’s the kind of scene that brings Lori Dean out here every week. She and her husband own several local businesses. She manages residential properties and employs more than 150 people.
Dean initially looked upon the weekly giveaway with scorn, thinking its beneficiaries were bums who hung out in the park all day and made no effort to better their lives.
She was shocked at what she saw when she started handing out lunches last September.
“This isn’t the homeless people sitting in the park. This is Grand Junction people,” she said. “For this town, there is a lot of needy people. There’s a lot of hopelessness out there right now.”
Dean says doing this helps her stay grounded.
“God has been so good to me. That’s why I’m out here,” she said.
In an hour Thursday, volunteers gave away about 250 lunches and every hot sandwich they had made. When everyone else had left and the bread truck had been packed up, eight people gathered in a circle, joined hands and bowed their heads.
They’ll be back next Thursday, ready with a sandwich. Or more, if you need it.