It’s not uncommon for generous acts to surface during the holiday, especially charitable gestures for those who are less fortunate.
But, when you have a group that guarantees a hot plate every Sunday throughout the year, that’s not such a common thing.
That’s precisely what an organization called Love One Another has been doing for 10 years.
The ministry serves meals every Sunday at the Pasco County Nutrition Center, 13853 15th St., in Dade City.
It feeds whomever walks through the door.
Lucy Avila helped to found Love One Another.
She said it all began with a simple idea brought up during a staff meeting at the First Baptist Church, where she attends.
Initially, it was a program aimed at feeding only the homeless.
Flyers were placed around the city to get the word out.
In the beginning, organizers planned for 100 people, but only 10 showed up.
The First Baptist Church supplied and prepared the meals for the first five months, but then decided to reach out to other churches in Dade City, asking them to help.
The churches responded.
Now, in addition to First Baptist Church, other churches pitching in are St. Rita Catholic Church, Calvary Assembly of God, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church, First United Methodist Church and Dade City Christian Church.
“It’s really a joint venture, but it’s all to promote Jesus Christ,” explained Jesse O’ Berry, a volunteer who attends Dade City Christian Church.
Each Sunday, a different church prepares and serves the meals.
Besides expanding the ministry, the organization also began opening its doors to anyone who wanted to come to enjoy a hot dish.
There’s also a food pantry — so those attending can take home items to last them through the week, and they can select items from a collection of clothing and personal hygiene items.
Offering these items, Avila said, benefits people who are limited financially and who are sometimes are forced to make the difficult choice between buying groceries or prescription medicines.
Ithzi Diaz, a mother of four, has been enjoying the hot meals for three years now.
With scarce resources, she said it’s a struggle to provide for her children.
The ministry has been a source of real help, she said.
“It’s just a relief to have places like this,” Diaz said. “It’s hard for a single mom.”
And, besides being able to take home groceries to help her family, she also can pick up treats for the pet cat.
This time of year, the Nutrition Center has a holiday feel. There’s a decorated Christmas tree behind a table of pantry items, and the tables are neatly set with holiday-themed tablecloths.
The desserts even include some colorful cookies, shaped like ornaments.
Avila is grateful for the year-round generosity of those who sustain the ministry.
“I’m so thankful that people have contributed to make these things happen,” Avila said.
Donors include the nonprofit organization Restored Hope, and Panera Bread. A fitness center also helps, by providing canned goods and pet food.
Schools pitch in, too. Pasco Middle School, Centennial Middle School and Centennial Elementary School all contribute canned goods on Fridays.
Students from Saint Leo University volunteer occasionally, too.
In addition to the Sunday meals, Love One Another also helps other organizations, when it has a surplus of food.
“If there’s a need out there, and we can help somebody else because we’ve been blessed, then we pass that on,” Avila said.
Forty-one-year-old Joey Yawn has witnessed Love One Another’s good works, and tries to emulate them. He’s been attending the Sunday meals for the past 10 years.
The Dade City man said he’s willing to open his home to others in need because the organization has helped him.
In addition to providing a welcome meal, the program has created a community, where friendships are formed and people care about each other, Yawn said.
He recalled one instance someone gave him some eggs and he passed them along to a single mom, so she could take them home.
Over time, Yawn has managed to get his brother, Kevin, and a friend, Ben Lehman, to come to the Sunday dinners.
“It’s been a blessing that God has put this in our lives because, without this, a lot of us would probably go hungry during the week,” the 20-year-old Lehman said.
Like his friend, he too has learned the meaning of sharing love and compassion to others.
“If I see a homeless guy on the way and I have a bag, I try to give him something,” he explained, quoting the Golden Rule.
When people ask him why he has such a joyful spirit, he tells them he can only attribute it to having a close relationship with God.
Many of those attending a recent Sunday gathering felt the same way as Vonette Mobley, who said, “Everybody that we meet, they’re very nice and make us feel like we’re family.”
Mobley, who initially came because she was invited by Avila, said she always felt respected and welcome.
There’s never been a sense of being looked down on, Mobley said. She has always felt like an equal.
She brings along her two daughters, Jasmine and Moesha, plus her granddaughter, Destiny.
“I was wondering earlier — ‘What am I going to cook for a Sunday meal?’ — and then my kids said, ‘Mom, just go to Love One Another’,” she said, chuckling.
Besides the meal and company, those attending often get something else, too: News of free events that will be coming up soon in the community, such as the Dade City Symphony or the Christmas Parade.
Plus, at the beginning of each month, there’s also a cake to celebrate those having a birthday that month.
At Love One Another gatherings, there’s food for the body, and soul.
Love One Another
Where: Pasco County Nutrition Center, 13853 15th St., Dade City
When: Every Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Details: Hot meals and desserts are provided at the center, as well as clothing, hygienic products and additional groceries to take home.
Info: If you’d like to know more about Love One Another, or you’d like to help, please contact Lucy Avila at (352) 424-4972 or at .
Published December 26, 2018