‘Monday Lunch Bunch’ serves up joy with free lunches


Aryauna Thompson

Monday Lunch Co-coordinator Ruth Harguess watches as students begin their meals.

They watch as the students file through the doors in clusters, their eyes bright with excitement. This gymnasium-turned-dining-hall is filled with anticipation. For the students, it stems from the eagerness to taste this week’s home-cooked meal; for the Monday Lunch Bunch, it is the beginning of their weekly service.

Each Monday, the University Church of Christ provides free food for juniors and seniors through the Monday Lunch program.

The students should know our lunches are free, and we get them in and out quickly.”

— Darlene Barrington, co-coordinator

“The students should know our lunches are free, and we get them in and out quickly,” Monday Lunch coordinator Darlene Barrington said. “They don’t have to worry about speeding to get here or speeding to get back. Also, the students do not have to be members of our church. We want them all to feel welcome and encourage them to bring their friends. Everyone is welcome. This is a safe, loving place.”

The Monday Lunch ministry, active since 2006, is headed by Barrington and co-coordinator Ruth Harguess. This is Barrington’s 13th year to serve the students and Harguess’s 10th. Both Barrington and Harguess said the reason they continue with their service is the students.

“The kids we have come in contact with over the years are all very polite,” Barrington said. “No matter what their backgrounds are, where they are academically or socially, they have always been polite, good-natured and very pleasant. They are all good kids.”

Harguess said the lunches feed more than 200 students each week, but the number of volunteers who come to help is typically 10. This group of volunteers is known as the Monday Lunch Bunch.

I like how we’re connecting with the community, and I think it is extremely nice of the church to serve us lunch each week.

— Kate McKinney, 12

“When it comes to the Monday Lunch Bunch, what happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen,” Barrington said. “We have a really effective and close atmosphere. We are a group of people that like each other and get along really well. We all have common sense, and nobody really has to tell anyone what to do–we just go in and do it.”

Barrington said the average age of a Monday Lunch Bunch member ranges from 65 to 70.

“Most of the people that come in and help on Monday Lunch are over 60, or at least those who actually do the cooking,” Harguess said. “Everybody that works the lunches helps of their free will, and they are eager to help and show up whenever we need them. In addition to the helpers we have each week, the people that make our desserts are typically the retired people of the congregation, and they love bringing their desserts in for the kids.”

Harguess said she and Barrington arrive at the church each Monday before 8:00 a.m. to prepare and typically leave the building between 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.

“We try to do most of the meals from scratch,” Harguess said. “We do not use pre-prepared foods. Our church congregation helps with that by bringing desserts and even occasionally some recipes they think would be good for our lunches. The men don’t normally help with the cooking, but they get the drinks and tables ready for us as well as take out the trash.”

The meals prepared by the church cover a range of foods which include everything from hot dogs to turkey and dressing.

We love for the kids to come. The more, the better.”

— Ruth Harguess, co-coordinator

“We make pancakes and sausage for Halloween, and we do a full Thanksgiving dinner every year,” Barrington said. “We make baked potatoes with a lot of toppings, chicken spaghetti, Frito pie, pile-on and chicken Frito pie. We have a meal where we prepare pulled pork, and typically with that, we make homemade macaroni and cheese. We have grilled cheese and soup when the weather is cooler. We also do sloppy joes and homemade chili, to name a few.”

Harguess said while the program has certain meals they fix regularly, the meals do not often repeat themselves throughout the course of a school year.

“I think the lunches are really cool, because I get to see people I don’t normally get to in the school day,” senior Kate McKinney said. “I like how we’re connecting with the community, and I think it is extremely nice of the church to serve us lunch each week. There is always really good food and desserts.”

Both Barrington and Harguess said they hope Monday Lunches are a way for students to experience fellowship and enjoy their time at the church each week.

“We try to reach the high school juniors and seniors to give them a basis of knowledge of God and His love,” Harguess said. “We want to give them a safe place to talk so they can have a little bit of fellowship time. We love for the kids to come. The more, the better. It is something we hope is helpful and fun to them.”