Bangor Church’s New Take-Out Window Makes On-Demand Meal Delivery Easier

A newly installed take-out window with direct access to the kitchen will save volunteers at First United Methodist Church in Bangor thousands of steps when handing out free meals each week.

Essex Street Church has served a free weekly meal on Thursdays since 2008. It changed from an in-person congregation to a take-out-only service in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. But this change meant that volunteers had to carry tables and food from the kitchen through the large communion hall to the edge of the circular aisle in order to distribute meals.

Now, as the church hopes to return to in-person dining, it plans to retain a drive-through alternative. The installation of the window makes drive-thru distribution more convenient at a time when demand for free meals is increasing.

First United Methodist Church in Bangor volunteers Diane Rochette, Kathie Merrill and Jane Burkhart (left to right) prepare lunches to distribute from the church’s new take-out window. Sandra Parsons (far right) sits inside the window distributing meals. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Once the window is installed, the kitchen volunteers have pre-packaged hot meals nearby. Two other volunteers outside ask the drivers how many meals they need. These volunteers then walk to the window using a new concrete walkway to pick up the meals and deliver them to the drivers.

It is the first such window in a church in Greater Bangor, and likely the first in Maine, according to Pastor Steve Smith.

Work on the window and walkway began late last fall and was completed about two weeks ago, he said.

A $23,000 grant from the Good Shepherd Food Bank, which provides the church with the food it needs to prepare meals, covered most of the costs associated with the window and walkway from the aisle of the church. ‘church. The church paid another $4,000.

“It saves us a lot of steps,” said Sandra Parsons, a regular volunteer.

This is important because most of the volunteers are over 60 years old.

Sandra Parsons (left) and Jane Burkhart wait inside the new take-out window at First United Methodist Church in Bangor to hand out free meals on Thursday night. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Since the church began offering takeout, the number of people seeking free meals for themselves and their neighbors has increased, according to Kathie Merrill, who coordinates the program for the church.

The number of cars arriving each Thursday has increased from 60-70 each week to 80-90. shelter in Bangor. Church volunteers expect to distribute 100 meals to encampments as the weather warms and the city anticipates further growth in its homeless population.

The church began serving free community meals in 2008, during the Great Recession, when it served as a warming center. It turned into a Thursday evening meal in the church’s great fellowship hall a few years later. With the pandemic came takeout.

While the church hopes to return to in-person meals, the take-out alternative would remain.

Mary-Ellen Adams hosts a dinner in the kitchen of First United Methodist Church in Bangor where volunteers meet on Thursdays to distribute free meals. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

“A lot of people feel comfortable driving but feel stigmatized to get in,” said Merrill, who worked in catering at the University of Maine before retiring.

In addition to free Thursday meals, the church uses the window to distribute its take-out bean suppers, which it sells on the fourth Saturday of each month to raise funds for its missionary work.

Jerry B. Hatch