For more than two years, the College Park United Methodist Church has been serving up good food and goodwill in an effort to address food insecurity in the community. Amy Caruso, minister of outreach at the church, launched the program, Who is My Neighbor?, in 2020 to help local immigrant and refugee families.
"We had a lot of Hispanics in the community who lost their job[s] in the restaurant industry. And we also know they have problems with food security. We have a large refugee community," Nora Eidelman said. Eidelman, who serves as administrator at United Methodist, said that the church had partnered with the Al-Huda School, a private Islamic school in College Park, to reach local refugee communities.
"Thursday is strictly halal food, mostly Afghan. And so we thought, 'What a great opportunity to bring some Afghan ladies from the Afghan refugee communities and use their cooking skills,'” Eidelman said. “They will come in, and we will provide them with training on how to use a commercial kitchen and give them a stipend."
The program typically attracts residents from Greenbelt, New Carrollton, Lanham and Beltsville to College Park. Helen Catalan, who cooks for the program, noted that community meals are essential because "they help many mothers and children. There are also many elderly who may struggle to cook for themselves."
The community meals are one way the church creates a stronger sense of community.
Eidelman said the church invites community members to get to know one another and reach across social, economic, and cultural lines. The next event will be on July 20 from 6 to 8 p.m.
College Park United Methodist offers a range of other community services and events, too. Earlier this year the church hosted a holistic spa retreat for the mothers to address physical, mental, and spiritual health. There is an after-school program for Hollywood Elementary School students, as well.
“We want to create a safe place where people feel respected or celebrated. A place where we can talk about the art, connecting local leaders to community members, neighbor helping neighbors,”
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"We want to make it as inclusive as possible. We want to focus on the community, and everybody is affected by this," Moreno said. "I like to keep in mind what propels us as College Park United Methodist Church to choose something like this. Well, it's love. … What that means is caring for each other, whether it be through food, sharing, or providing words of hope."
College Park United Methodist Church is hosting a fundraiser on June 27 at Franklins Restaurant, Brewery, and General Store, with 20% of all restaurant purchases made between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. going to support the church’s community meals program. Franklins is at 5123 Baltimore Avenue, in Hyattsville.
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