Those who eat together, stay together.
And for members who belong to Faith United Presbyterian Church of Tinley Park, that expression rings true.
On the evening of June 15, Faith United Presbyterian Church of Tinley Park opened its doors and welcomed for a free community meal.
The community meal—which takes place every third Thursday at the church—provides area residents an opportunity to enjoy homemade food, while coming together for fellowship.
“Tinley Park is a great community, but there are also a lot of pockets of isolation where people have separated [or] people don’t know how to connect with who,” The Rev. Adam Malak said. “This offers an environment that is welcoming, it offers an environment that is hospitable and it creates nurtured relationships.”
When St. George Catholic Church and Faith United Presbyterian Church of Tinley Park first thought of the idea to team up and host an event such as this, the aim was to address the need to offer support to individuals and families in need.
“The real need that we found was the need for interaction, the need for community,” he said.
And that vision continued to grow.
“It’s achieving its goal now, but there’s also that vision that we’re trying to move and we’re trying to grow to,” he added. “While it’s tempting to focus on numbers, we average about 40 to 50 people a month.
“In some sense, we want to grow bigger, but what’s really fascinating is there are new people that come every month. It’s kind of like this rotation of we see some faces one month, then not the next. New folks are coming in. The word is getting out, and everyone who comes just leaves here full physically, emotionally, spiritually. That’s really what our goal is.”
For those in attendance at the community meal held this month, guests enjoyed some pulled pork, salad, side dishes and desserts.
“We have a number of different volunteers who like go out and do the shopping,” said Martin Stone, a member of the community meal team. “They get the plates and buns and potato chips, and then, of course, everyone gets together and serves [the food.]”
The churches reach out to the local businesses for donations to help support the community meal.
“What we try do is feed 50 or 60 people—we have about 30 to 40 today—with like less than a hundred bucks,” Stone said. “We’ve been successful because we’ve got volunteers who provide, like I said the St. George ladies with the salads and sides.”
Stone said the event does a great job of bringing the community together.
“It brings out different churches [from] different areas,” he said. “We’ve had people from PAWS [of Tinley Park]. We’ve even had some homeless people who have come and shared. We love to have them. It’s a good outreach, I think.”
Sally Bourque-Laycsak, of Tinley Park, said she was enjoying the community meal.
“[I’m] meeting a lot of new people,” she said. “It’s fun to see people come in. It’s for anyone—anyone in the community.”
Bourque-Laycsak was in attendance for the community meal with her husband and son.
Bourque-Laycsak said she has always been drawn to the idea of area churches holding a community meal to encourage fellowship and build community.
“It’s nice to realize that we all have much more in common than we have in differences,” she said.
And the need for gatherings of this type is evident, she added.
“It’s important to know and have people [who may] not necessarily think alike but care about other people, especially nowadays where people act like they don’t care so much about other people,” she explained further.
St. George Catholic Church and Faith United Presbyterian Church of Tinley Park are working to expand the community meal they offer by incorporating other area churches in the partnership.
“Two other churches have expressed an interest in starting one of their own,” Malak said. “Our vision is that in Tinley Park, every Thursday there’d be a community meal [at] one of our churches where we just kind of move around [from one location to another.]”