Judy Gilreath and the volunteers of Dinner Bell know how important sponsors are when it comes to feeding a crowd every week! So are willing, knowledgeable kitchen helpers and the indispensable community partners who make the Dinner Bell wheels turn, week in and week out.
Although Judy has always loved cooking and being in the kitchen she admits that Dinner Bell is a lot of hard work and you have to be on your toes every week! “One week we serve over 200 meals and the next week, for whatever reasons, numbers are down a bit. So, do we sometimes prepare too much or too little for the demand? Yes, but you just never know how many will show up. We never want to turn anyone away and have rarely had to. See, this mission is very much needed, and our meals are offered free of charge to anyone in need of a meal. Since COVID’s been with us, there’s been more families with children that we didn’t see before, when school was in session. We just try to be prepared to serve everybody that shows up for a meal. When we have some leftover, such as today, July 1, we look for a way to put the excess food to use. I took a quantity of our baked ham and cheese grits over the Li’l 4’s Club, because they’re open and they’ve got kids there. Oh, and we took homemade cookies too. We are blessed to always have enough, and then some!”
Dinner Bell is a food ministry of First United Methodist Church in Sulphur Springs, and offers a free meal each Wednesday “for anyone in need”. As Judy explained, “now that COVID-19 restrictions are upon us, we are packaging the plates in the kitchen as take-outs and carrying them out in batches to the covered drive. That’s where the cars line up, and our group of guys hands them through the car windows to the people inside. You can get one plate for as many people as are in the car, if desired. And that’s proven to be the safest and fastest way to serve. Of course, we miss the days when we all could meet together in the Fellowship Hall, have prayer and enjoy a sit-down meal as a group. Hopefully, those days will come again. Til then, we keep on serving”.
Dinner Bell is thriving with ‘farm to table’ opportunities in abundance. “We buy vegetables from local growers, and we are given produce as well. Another of our blessings is that beef from the Sale of Champions was purchased, then donated to Dinner Bell. We’ve been able to keep beef on our weekly menus that way. People have been so generous. Recently, someone else donated several cases of frozen cookie dough. We loved getting it but had no place to keep that quantity! Grocery Supply came to our rescue and are storing the cases for us in their freezer. I just go and pick up a few cases when needed and we can bake fresh homemade cookies real often, thanks to generous support. People want to give, and those who can usually find a way to do so. You know, I was stopped in the grocery store just last week by a lady who gave me a $100 bill for Dinner Bell. This ministry is so needed. It’s truly amazing how the Lord is blessing it and feeding his sheep”.
Community Partners play a big role. ” Grocery Supply Inc, was our Community Partner this week. A business, industry or company who wants to help out occasionally can do so, with a $350 donation. That supplies our funding for that week. Non-profits, organizations, even families have been community partners. See, it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a loving community to support a ministry like this. Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County is truly a loving, generous place. I never cease to be amazed at the good that’s done through Dinner Bell. I am glad we came to this community in 1960, with us both right out of the University of Texas at Austin. My husband Charles had just passed his State Board of Pharmacy then. We made Sulphur Springs our home and went to work. I love to serve and I’ve been so blessed!”