BANDON — Everyone At Table celebrated its 15th anniversary June 18 in The Barn's dining room.
E.A.T. serves a home-style nutritious meal every Tuesday night to those on limited incomes. Allison Hundley, president of E.A.T., has been volunteering since 2004 with the program, which is run entirely by volunteers.
In 2004, Hundley started talking with Stephanie Bereson from Holy Trinity Catholic Church, who, along with women from six other churches, had the idea to help the less fortunate in Bandon. Before Hundley joined the group, the women, the Rev. Barbara Mudge, Caroline McKemy, MaryAnne Longworth, Audrey Wells, Trish Spencer, the Rev. Robin Haruna, the Rev. Sharon Mortensen, Carolyn Goldwasser, and Stephanie Bereson, planned to open a homeless shelter.
For various reasons, that didn’t work out, and over the next few months, the group of women concluded they could help them greatest number of needy people with a meal program. To help confirm this thought, one of the women checked in with the School District and found that 55 percent of the students in the district received free or reduced-price lunch. Since then, that number has risen to more than 65 percent.
Three months after Hundley and Bereson started talking, E.A.T., Inc. served its first meal. Gail Nordstrom from Langlois joined the group as a cook shortly before they opened and she has been cooking ever since. In a short period of time, the seven ladies got involved, made up a board and organized their new program into a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Board members now include Hundley, Nordstrom, Spencer, McKemy, Careen Pierce and Sabra Kachelein. Several others also volunteer on a regular basis. E.A.T. is partially supported by donations from church groups but is not a faith-based organization.
Their dream was at first funded by a $1,200 grant from Catholic Charities and $180 from donations from a summer visitor at St. John’s Episcopal Church, but through the diligent work of the board to obtain grants, generous businesses and individuals who donate food and money, a cooperative annual fundraiser and valuable volunteers, the E.A.T. program is still going strong.
Although E.A.T. is its own nonprofit, it is connected to many other groups in the area with similar goals. One of its connections is to the South Coast Food Share (the regional Oregon Food Bank), a program of Oregon Coast Community Action. ORCCA serves as a nonprofit umbrella agency that helps administer and support several children’s programs and emergency services on the Southern Oregon Coast from Reedsport to Brookings.
E.A.T. also cooperates with four other nonprofits in Bandon: Coastal Harvest Gleaners, Good Neighbors, the Restoration Worship Center Food Pantry, and Senior Nutrition join with E.A.T. to put on an annual fundraiser they call Bandon Feeds The Hungry Variety Show. Every summer, auditions are held for all kinds of talent, including vocal, comedy, and dance and the 5 minute acts are performed in early October to an enthusiastic audience. Attendees also enjoy refreshments at a snack bar, a silent auction, door prizes and a 50/50 drawing. Bandon Feeds the Hungry is an important sources of income for the five nonprofit groups. The proceeds are split equally among the five groups and are used to fund their programs.
E.A.T. also relies on grants to pay for the equipment used for meal preparation and for other specific needs as well as donations from local businesses, church groups and individuals, and donations that are accepted (although not required) at the door at the weekly dinners. Each year, the program also receives funding from the City of Bandon's Revenue Sharing program.
The need to feed Bandon’s hungry has not changed in the time E.A.T. has existed. In fact, it seems to have increased and many single and older residents are in need as well. Although some families attend the weekly dinners, Hundley, knowing the statistics, would like to see more.
Tuesday night dinner menus vary with the kinds of food donated, including fresh produce from Bandon's Good Earth Community Garden, but they are always free, home-style and nutritious. A typical main dish might be meatloaf or chicken with side dishes of potatoes, vegetables and more. Meals close to the holidays may include ham or turkey, sides and pie for dessert.
Everyone is welcome at E.A.T. Those who are not on limited incomes are asked to help by donating for their meal. In addition to a hot meal, E.A.T. provides a place for community members to gather and enjoy each other's company.
The meal is served on Tuesday evenings from 5:30-6:15 p.m. at The Barn, Bandon's Community Center, at 1200 11th St. S.W. Tuesday evening 5:30 – 6:15 p.m. at The Barn, Bandon’s Community Center in City Park.