Jeannette outreach feeds body, soul of diners
Those who visit the First Baptist Church along North Second Street in Jeannette for a free dinner on Thursdays can expect to leave nourished, both body and soul.
“This is a place for people in need, and there is fellowship here,” said Gerri Coulson of Delmont, a Jeannette native who was among about 100 people who communed with others in the basement of the church last week.
“People can come here once a week and can talk to people,” Coulson said of the meals provided by the nonprofit Living Hope Outreach LLC.
Organized by Mary and John Timberlake of Hempfield, the group has been providing the weekly meals since June. The event is dependent on donations from area restaurants and churches, and a group of volunteers who serve the diners, Mary Timberlake said.
“It’s all God-driven. It’s like the fishes and the loaves,” said Timberlake, 58, referring to Jesus’ sermon on the mount, when he was able to feed the masses by turning one basket of bread and fish into an overflowing amount.
She said she made the pasta for the recent meal, but it was not a daunting task.
“You make it for 10 people, you can make it for 100,” she said.
Michael Hice of Youngwood, one of about 30 volunteers for Living Hope, says the group is following the example of Jesus.
“We’re feeding the people. It is good for the soul,” Hice said. “It’s tough to keep your faith in these times.”
From Mary Timberlake’s perspective, God “had been grooming me and my husband (John) for the past 10 years” for this mission work.
Both are members of the Charter Oak United Methodist Church and did mission work in Jamaica, which inspired them to open a ministry in Jeannette.
“We feel love for the city (Jeannette). It reminds us so much of Jamaica … the generational poverty,” said Timberlake, who runs a commercial cleaning business.
In Jeannette, they found a city where the need for aid is apparent. While the city has established neighborhoods that are as nice as any other in the region, the contrast with the areas close to downtown is stark. Sixteen percent of Jeannette’s population of 9,130 people — roughly 1,460 — live below the poverty level, according to the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey.
In the First Baptist Church, they have found a supportive ministry, Timberlake said.
“They’ve been super,” Timberlake said of First Baptist.
Interim pastor Sue Petrill, whose congregation has dwindled to 20 to 25 people, said Living Hope is a blessing for the people in need. Since Living Hope has been using the church for its outreach, the congregation has had some of the diners come to services, Petrill said.
The church opens the doors of its clothing ministry Thursdays for those coming to the Living Hope meal who need clothing, Timberlake said.
“The ones that do this (outreach) are wonderful,” Petrill said.
Living Hope offers people the chance to pick up items they are not able to acquire through government aid, such as toilet paper, deodorant and toothbrushes, Timberlake said.
While Living Hope is an appropriate name for a mission offering food and clothing, it also gives the recipients something less tangible.
“We give them a place where they can be safe and loved,” Timberlake said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .