st. paul's united church of christ in wheatland

WHEATLAND — For Tessa Cavey, the pastor at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Wheatland, her time on the pulpit every Sunday accounts for only about 5% of her job.

She believes, the majority of her responsibility — the remaining 95% — is to help her community.

To do that, Cavey came up with an idea for a summer lunch program at the church at 315 N. Main St.

Every Tuesday through the summer, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Cavey and her helpers prepare and serve lunch to children 18 and younger.

There are no income restrictions; all young people are welcome.

It was an idea that came to Cavey after she gave some thought to an issue that had been troubling her.

“I was thinking, somewhere along the line, people lost the meaning of church,” Cavey related. “They think of it just as a place to worship. But it’s also about community and fellowship. I want to try to make people see [the church] as a place for fellowship, and to be part of a family. And I want kids to know it’s a safe place … that we’re here for them.”

She received $1,500 in grant funding from the LincolnWay Community Foundation, and she uses the money to purchase food from the Riverbend Foodbank in Davenport.

Through the food bank, fruits and vegetables are free. All other foods are 18 cents per pound.

Since the program — which ends Aug. 22 — began June 4, Cavey said they have been serving an average of 40 kids per week.

“It’s turned out really great,” she noted.

On July 30, Cavey and her helpers, Ann Ott, of Wheatland, who has been a member of the church for 66 years; Rhonda Roling, of DeWitt; and Dana Lyter, who lives in Lowden but is a former Wheatland resident, were busy chopping and preparing food for the day’s lunch.

On the menu were tacos, watermelon, sliced oranges and apples, cherries, cantaloupe, green beans, celery with peanut butter, strawberry yogurt, pound cake, cookies, and juice or milk to drink.

“Nobody goes home hungry,” Roling said with a smile.

“I just love it,” Lyter said as she chopped celery. “It’s a great way to reach out to our community.”

Cavey said the purpose of the program is three-fold: to get the church’s name out there and show that it’s community-based, to feed children and finally — when there is left-over food — to give it to shut-ins and elderly residents.

On Aug. 22, before area schools resume classes for the 2019-2020 school year, Cavey and her helpers are going to make goody bags full of snack foods, including fruit snacks, pudding cups, granola bars and crackers, to give to area youngsters.

Staff members at Curtis Memorial Library in Wheatland also are having a school-supply drive, and together with the snacks, children will be provided with anything they might need for school.

Cavey is grateful to the LincolnWay Community Foundation, as well as the food bank, for enabling the church to provide such a service to the public.

It’s something she hopes to continue, and one that will serve as many children as possible.

“It’s my baby,” Cavey said of the program. “I appreciate and know what it’s worth to the community. We invite anybody … it doesn’t matter where you’re from.”