Making Time for Meals

Karen Scribano   -  

With today’s busy families, making time to sit down for a meal together, especially during the week, can be a challenge.  St. Mark has tried to ease that struggle through the years by providing meals on Wednesday nights prior to the evening’s programming. This year, Wednesday programming has been refreshed as “Mid-Week Connect,” with activities for all ages, and our meal ministry also has a new face:  that of long-time member Janene Brennan, who has taken the helm as the Wednesday Meal Ministry Coordinator.

Janene was in the third grade when her family moved to West Des Moines and joined St. Mark.  She was confirmed and married here, her children were both baptized here, and her mother’s funeral was held here. Years ago, when her kids began Sunday School, she became involved first as a teacher, then with all their high-school activities.  “I never went on a mission trip, but I’ve always helped with all the fundraising activities: Easter breakfasts in the old kitchen, and helping with the auction meals and the ‘parents night out’ babysitting project to raise money for their trips.” Through it all, she says, “I’ve always been associated with the kitchen activities!”

Along the way, she got involved in a small group. “It used to be that families and small groups would sign up to take turns serving the meals on Wednesday nights – at that time called ‘WOW’ (Worship on Wednesdays).  I remember Marge Steenson was in charge for a few years, and she used to cook big, elaborate meals! And my group volunteered to serve one Wednesday each month.”

Along with so many things, the meals had to stop in 2020, and this year, under Janene’s leadership, they are slowly building back up to become a staple of the Wednesday night activities. “I think they are so important!  Eating together brings people together. Families can eat together, but it’s also a time to meet new people. And for the groups, it is a great way to serve together.”

Janene brings two valuable skills to this ministry: “I’m organized, and I bring positivity! I do the meal planning and the shopping, and I do most of the meal prep, so right now serving groups really only need to show up to serve and do simple clean up.  I do get a little trepidatious on Tuesday night when I’m making my final lists – I am always a little nervous that we’ll have enough food!  Attendance has been fairly consistent, serving 50-60 meals each week, but when we had spaghetti, we had 70 people. I am positive that the meals are going to end up being a good experience and, hopefully, something everybody likes. I did a survey this fall and found out what people would like to see.  We’re getting to that time of year when people are looking for comfort foods – soups and casseroles – but that takes more than just me, and I will need more volunteers to make those meals happen.”

Drawing in more volunteers and watching the meals become popular once again are some of Janene’s goals.  “Wednesday is such a great opportunity for fellowship and serving,” Janeen muses. “People can come together, enjoy a meal, worship, and get to know others in the congregation. I’ve been here a long time and have a small group that I’ve known for years, but I’ve really enjoyed meeting new families.  I hope people will come and realize that they can get a good meal here, and then maybe volunteer and help.  I want the meals to be a big deal!”