A free, hot meal

Drew Butler

For the past two Wednesday evenings, a local family has been serving a free to-go meal out of the First Baptist Church in Ringling. The project was started by Abbie McLemore and her mother, having already served nearly 180 meals

“My mom and I came up with the idea,” McLemore said. “She’s been cooking for our church at Falls Creek for almost 40 years now, and we thought one meal a week barely compares to how many meals she’s used to making in a week at camp. We decided it would definitely be doable.”

McLemore said the meals are available to anyone with no questions asked. They even make arrangements for delivery for anyone who is homebound.

“We just wanted to offer a home cooked meal to people who needed it,” McLemore said. “I come from a home health nursing background, so I know that a lot of homebound patients would benefit from a nice, warm, home cooked meal. I also want all of those essential workers to be able to grab a meal to take to work so they don’t have to leave. It’s just a way of showing a little bit of gratitude.”

McLemore said the meals also help those families who are out of work because of all of the shut downs. She said her work as a nurse practitioner has slowed down significantly, and she wants to be able to help out others in any way she can.

They first served a meal of lasagna casserole to around 60 people on March, 18. That number doubled to around 120 last Wednesday when they served chicken spaghetti. She said this Wednesday they will be serving a Mexican casserole. People also have the option to request hotdogs for those who may not like the particular meal being served.

McLemore said she has experienced an outpouring of food and monetary donations from the community to keep the project going.

“That’s been the best thing so far,” McLemore said. “We’ve had a lot of donations, and that’s been really helpful in keeping it going. As far as going out to get the food, we’re trying to limit the number of people going out as much as possible. So my mom and I have been going out to do the shopping for the ingredients we need for each week.”

McLemore said the meals are served weekly from the First Baptist Church of Ringling on Wednesday evenings between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Anyone interested in helping or making arrangements to pick up their meals can contact her on Facebook at Abbie Tripp McLemore. Anyone homebound in the Ringling, Wilson, and Healdton areas can also contact her to receive a delivery. She asks anyone wanting a meal to contact her, so they will know how much food to prepare.

Originally, they planned to serve the meals for only four weeks, but they are prepared to extend the project into the future if the need continues. She said the best part of the entire project has been seeing how willing the community has been to help others.

“It’s been really wonderful with people reaching out to ask how they can help,” McLemore said. “It’s been a really great service that shows that small town spirit. If people want the meal they can come get it. It’s just about making sure people have food and they remain as safe as possible, even if it just prevents them from going out to the grocery store one time.”