Welcome to The Open Door
The Open Door serves lunches to our homeless or underemployed neighbors Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 1:00 p.m. Persons simply need to come to the St. Catherine Street entrance to the Fellowship Hall and a friendly church member or volunteer will assist them. All of the lunches are a hot, sit-down meal.
A History of the Open Door Ministry
This ministry began years ago when our then-church secretary started sharing her lunch with neighbors who came to the door. Slowly, visitors increased in number and frequency and she began to bring extra food from home. Later, in 1991 under the leadership of an associate pastor, the endeavor became a bit more structured and additional volunteers were added. Church staff and members would bring food from home or purchase simple items for distribution. They would cram into the church front office to make a few sandwiches. Bread was neatly laid out in an “assembly line” in the mail room and spread with peanut butter and jelly or lunch meat. It was a simply act of kindness they were doing for the occasional neighbor who would ring the door bell and ask if the church could spare some food.
The ministry casually became known as The Side Door Ministry, because the St. Catherine entrance is on the side of our building. When people asked on the street where to get a sandwich, the answer would be “go to the side door of that church on the corner.” The ministry was intended to assist those in the neighborhood who may be experiencing a less fortunate time in their life or had run short of funds a little too early in the month. This truly was, and remains, the church sharing its lunch with the community.
Throughout the early 1990s the number of visitors was modest, about a dozen per day, but grew steadily. Usually the bill of fare was a simple sandwich or Vienna sausage, perhaps a cookie. Occasionally, volunteers would grill hot dogs in the garden or on the porch off the Parlor. It wasn’t long before the few sandwiches turned into a whole loaf of bread every day. And, it became apparent both that this was a definite need in our community and that this gentle act of kindness had outgrown the mail room. In 2005 it was moved into the Parlor where there were larger tables and a small, adjacent kitchen. But, as more groups needed the Parlor during the day, the ministry ultimately moved to its present location, downstairs into the Fellowship Hall. It was easy for the big professional kitchen to be cleaned and put to use. Volunteers built a pantry off the back of the kitchen, the stoves were checked, a new stainless-steel sink installed and lots of deep cleaning was done.
Additional change came to the program with The Healing Place and Dare-To-Care. In 2004 The Healing Place, an intensive, residential drug and alcohol program began conducting recovery program classes in the church Fellowship Hall. Those participating in that program, many of whom were also homeless, substantially increased the number of daily Open Door guests.
And in 2006 Open Door became a Dare-To-Care (www.DaretoCare.org) participating agency. The Dare-To-Care relationship has been of key significance as it allows Open Door to stretch donated dollars; to remain a faithful steward. In 2008 a piece of fresh fruit was added to the weekday menu and a volunteer operation at Christ Church United Methodist began sending frozen casseroles created by a registered dietician. Later, in 2009, Open Door also became a part of the YUM! Harvest program . Weekly food donations are received from a KFC / Long John Silver restaurant located on Taylor Boulevard.
This charitable endeavor has always enjoyed the support of many faithful volunteers, both for the former weekday “brown-bag” lunches (now full sit down meals) and the Saturday sit-down Fellowship Lunch. Although the faces may change over time, the steadfast dedication of the volunteers forms a living testimony. Most, but not all, volunteers have been members of the church or other Louisville United Methodist churches: our friends from Christ Church, St. Paul, Summit Heights, Revolution and Jeffersontown. Some would leave work for a few hours to purchase supplies or to prepare and distribute the lunches. Some guests became regulars and many lasting relationships were formed. Ultimately, some guests began to also volunteer and those within the surrounding church neighborhood would also lend a hand as needed.
Today the Open Door serves as many as 150 people per day, five days a week. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday our guests are served a hot, home-style meal as they sit in Fellowship Hall sharing their mealtime with others in our community. (Wednesday meals are hosted by a sister church, Central Presbyterian.)
This is truly a ministry God has blessed and continues to bless. In seminary we are taught to always ask the question: If your church were to disappear from its location, would anyone notice? The answer for the Open Door Ministry is a resounding, “Yes!” We hope we are able to love and serve our neighbors near the corner of Fourth and St. Catherine Streets for many years to come. After all, our guiding mission is to “Share the love of God in the heart of the city.”
“Christ’s question to Peter – Do you love me? – becomes the question to each of us. When we say ‘yes,’ the response from God is always the same, ‘Feed my lambs, tend my sheep.’” – Rueben P. Job