With news of the economy increasingly worrisome, members of Faith Covenant Church decided to do something to ease the lives of the church's neighbors.
On Wednesdays, beginning this week, the church will offer a picnic dinner of hot dogs, hamburgers and side dishes for a small donation. No RSVP is needed, which means church members will have no idea of how many guests to expect or how much food to prepare.
Though Pastor Jim DeGrado didn't mention the well-known biblical account of the loaves and fishes, he came close. "It's by faith that we are launching into this project,'' he said. "The name of our church says it all — Faith Covenant.''
Jane Lenhart, chairwoman of the church's local missions, said the congregation is initially preparing to serve 100 people. Last weekend, church members gathered to make picnic tables and benches for their guests. The project was led by 17-year-old Aaron Bennett, who volunteered to build the picnic furniture as his Eagle Scout project. Aaron, a member of Troop 261, which meets at Riviera United Methodist Church, raised money for the project and enlisted the help of church members and fellow Scouts.
DeGrado said members of his church, at 150 62nd Ave. NE, decided to offer the dinners from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. to help neighbors get through difficult financial times.
"Some of our people who are in leadership thought about the state of affairs of Pinellas County, particularly St. Petersburg, as the price of gas goes up and with the tightening of money and the loss of jobs, and thought that what we would like to do is give our neighbors a break and invite them to dinner,'' he said.
Lenhart sees other benefits, including giving busy people a night off from cooking and cleaning. "So this will serve not only our neighborhood, but also the families that go to our Wednesday night activities. And what better way to meet and get to know our neighbors than with a meal,'' she said.
"And let them get to know us,'' the pastor said. "No strings attached.''
Waveney Ann Moore, Times Staff Writer