DADE CITY — Within 30 minutes, 30 meals had been served.
By the end of the day, that number would pass 200.
For many of those who came to eat, it would be their only hot meal all week. And that's why the Love One Another outreach does what it does.
Every Sunday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., the outreach serves a hot meal to those in need. Love One Another also offers snacks and toiletries that patrons can take with them, as well as used clothing.
Love One Another was started by First Baptist Church member Lucy Avila and Pastor Ed Kuffel. After planning for weeks, Love One Another served its first meal Sept. 14 at the Pasco County Nutrition Center.
Kuffel says he was looking for a way to get the church involved in the community when he was inspired by a similar program, called Love Your Neighbor, in Brooksville.
"I sent Lucy out to investigate and we realized it was something we could do," Kuffel says.
He credits Avila with coming up with many of the ideas for how to make the program successful.
"I just see the big picture, that is, feeding needy people," he says. "But Lucy came up with the idea of serving people."
When people show up to Love One Another, rather than lining up for a meal and leaving quickly, they are encouraged to sit down in the spacious dining room and relax for a while.
"We want them to feel special," Avila says.
Volunteers often join patrons at tables to have a conversation, and live music is common.
"Some people bring harmonicas," Kuffel says. "People have been great, really hands-on."
"It's not about First Baptist Church," Avila says. "It's about reaching out."
As a primary coordinator for Love One Another, Avila says she spends a lot of time each Saturday preparing for the next day — going from place to place collecting donations.
"I spend a lot of time establishing relationships with donors before we ask for anything," she says.
Love One Another receives donations from Olga's Bakery, Hungry Howie's and Domino's Pizza, to name a few. Avila says the program also accept donations from individuals.
"This morning I had a lady call and ask if I could use any leftover chicken from a party she'd had," Avila says. "I was thrilled. It's a blessing."
Aside from donating food, volunteers can also work in the kitchen at Love One Another.
"We love for people, or organizations, to come in and prepare the food," Avila says. "It only takes about seven people to come in and make a meal."
Meals for Love One Another are prepared at the First Baptist Church each Sunday before the Love One Another service.
"People can also come in on a Sunday and work in the kitchen," Avila says. This Sunday, a group from Centennial Middle School will be in the kitchen, serving an assortment of sandwiches and any other donations Love One Another receives that week.
Avila says Love One Another is also in need of clothing donations, such as sweaters and jackets, and especially blankets as the cold weather approaches.
"I brought in a lot of clothes, and baby toys," says Megan Gonzalez, a Zephyrhills High student and volunteer with Love One Another. "My niece lives with us so I brought in her old stuff."
Gonzalez brought her friend, Keri Slack, along with her to volunteer. The two girls handed out toiletries and snacks.
"The pet food went really fast," says Slack, also a Zephyrhills High student and Gonzalez's teammate on the volleyball team.
Slack says she didn't hesitate to join Gonzalez at Love One Another.
"It makes me feel good to help people out," she says.
"It's great to know the youth has a heart for this," Avila says. "They are our future, and hopefully it will make them better people in the community."