By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
The daily free lunch program at the Cathedral of the Assumption has been feeding the hungry for more then eight decades. And now that free lunch program is in need of some help of its own.
On June 8 the Cathedral of the Assumption will hold a fund-raising evening at the Seelbach Hotel called “FeedMyNeighbor.” The dining and dancing event is inviting Cathedral parishioners and others in the community to support the free-lunch program — they’re inviting contributions that will help the Cathedral continue to feed its neighbors, many of whom are homeless or down on their luck.
The event at the Seelbach, 500 S. Fourth St., will begin with a cocktail hour at 6:30 p.m., and will include dinner, dancing and live and silent auctions. Tickets are $100 per person.
“Ten years ago we served a bologna sandwich and a cookie, and the cost was minimal,” said Maggie Cyphers, head of the FeedMyNeighbor steering committee. “Now it (the lunch program) costs $138,000 a year” to operate.
The increase is due to the types of meals served. When the program began during the Great Depression, she explained, sandwiches were handed out to the hungry from the front door of the rectory. That simple sandwich has grown to include a hot lunch item, sandwich, drink and dessert in a dedicated dining hall.
Ten years ago the late Tommy Sandefur, former chief executive officer of Brown & Williamson, donated money to renovate a space behind the Cathedral Undercroft.
Today approximately 140 homeless men, women and children and low-income individuals eat in the Sandefur Dining Room 365 days of the year, Cyphers said in an interview at the Cathedral last week.
With the establishment of the dining room, she noted, the operating costs of the daily lunch program have ballooned. “We’ve gone from no paper products to using paper plates, paper cups, plastic forks, heating and air conditioning,” Cyphers said.
Cyphers said the committee intends for the “FeedMyNeighbor” soiree to be an annual fund-raising event for the daily lunch program.
“It’s a time to celebrate how far we’ve come, from handing sandwiches out of the front door to the beautiful dining room we have today,” Cyphers said.
The event also will honor Christy Brown, Father Ron Knott and Father Bill Fichteman, all of whom were instrumental in the creation of the Sandefur Dining Hall, Cyphers explained.
Father Jeff Nicolas, pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption, said it became clear to him and parish leadership that additional money was needed to operate the lunch program last year.
“The primary purpose of this function is to raise money to feed the hungry,” he said in a phone interview last Thursday.
Father Nicolas said he hopes the program will become an annual benefit that will bring the city together.
“It’s an opportunity to share with the entire community what we are doing (at the dining hall) and in a welcoming way invite others to join us in this work,” Father Nicolas said.
Cyphers said auction items for the benefit are still needed. Donations of items or services such as vacation home rentals, restaurant gift cards, concert tickets, babysitting, dry-cleaning and landscaping are welcome. Additional corporate sponsorships are needed as well.
For more information about the FeedMyNeighbor event or to purchase tickets call the Cathedral office at 582-2971, extension 5222.