MILTON — With the aroma of spaghetti and meatballs filling the social hall of the First Presbyterian Church of Milton Wednesday evening, feelings of happiness and friendship permeated the room.

Bill Bower, a church member, describes what takes place each week at the facility as “the meal and the word.”

A free community meal is served at 6 p.m. Wednesdays at the church on Walnut Street, followed by a brief message.

Bower, who volunteers as a cook, said this is the fourth year the church has offered the program. The meals are served weekly, September through May.

“We’ve seen this grow, and we’ve sustained it at between 80 and 100 (who attend each week),” he said.

Many of those, Bower said, often comment that they would go without a meal if it wasn’t for the one being served at the church.

Of those who participate, about a dozen attend Sunday services at the church. Fourteen volunteers from the church were helping to serve the meal on Wednesday.

“There’s a real need for this,” Bower said. “The good Lord has blessed us with the ability to take care of our neighbors.”

He said the meal is served exactly at 6 p.m. each week. Twenty minutes later, dessert is served.

“At 6:30, we go into the sanctuary. “They do a lot of singing.”

A brief message is also presented.

While church pastor Rev. Dr. Steve Shirk presents the messages most weeks, Wednesday’s message was delivered by John Pfeil.

A retired minister, Pfeil serves as the church’s pastor of membership and outreach.

He said the messages are typically inspirational.

“They’re light, encouraging,” he said.

Pfeil also noted that friendships have been built through the weekly program.

“This is really a way to connect with folks,” he said. “There’s a real connection between the folks in the kitchen and the regulars (who attend the meal).”

Bower agreed, and noted that individuals from all walks of life are welcome to attend.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you make,” he said. “This is all about fellowship.”

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

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