This project is a labor of love that has been embraced by the entire church and community of Caledonia, according to volunteer Betty Darnell.
“The community is thankful we offer the lunch to them and their friends,” Darnell said. “For some, it is a social outing where they are free to visit friends, eat, relax, and even carry home their dinner.”
Darnell said they have had numerous comments from guests at each meal. She said they are always very complimentary and thankful for the food and fellowship offered at the Senior Outreach Unity Luncheon (SOUL) at Caledonia United Methodist Church in Caledonia.
“We try to offer a variety of foods at each luncheon prepared by our church members, Darnell said. “We are blessed to have this opportunity to share with our friends and neighbors.”
Volunteer Lisa Elgin said what she loves most about this project is seeing the senior citizens laughing and having a good time.
“I love that they are always smiling and that they are inviting friends,” Elgin said. “Our only feedback from participants is about how good the food is and questioning the next luncheon dates. However, we have had family members tell us that their parent(s) enjoy the luncheons so much that they talk about it for days afterward.”
Elgin said she has been told that those participating in the SOUL event immediately start making transportation arrangements as soon as they get the invitation/reminder in the mail prior to the next luncheon.
Project SOUL is special mission project designed to provide local seniors an opportunity for food and fellowship on a regular basis. And the efforts of this small church have not gone unnoticed. The project was recently given a mission grant of $1,785 by the 2018 Connectional Ministries from the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Money received from this grant will be used to purchase food, drinks, paper products, invitations, postage, gas for transportation as needed, and small inspirational gifts that may be given, such as bookmarks, pocket prayers, and devotional booklets.
Caledonia UMC started SOUL in 2016 with a Connectional Ministries Mission grant, and senior citizen participants have more than doubled since they began. Elgin said at a recent event, 61 senior citizens stopped by to join the fun!
“We are a small church and we have 100 percent participation (in Project SOUL),” Elgin said. “I couldn’t ask for a more loving church family.”
Rev. Charity Gordon, pastor at Caledonia UMC, said they have been blessed to be able to continue having the luncheon every other month with donations from the congregation well as anonymous sources.
For those with transportation needs, Caledonia UMC offers a safe driver to bring the senior to the luncheon and take them home afterward. In addition to serving a home-cooked meal, the church will have different activities planned for each luncheon that bring about lots of laughter and good times, according to Gordon. Some seniors will come early to play Dominoes, Checkers, or Jenga.
“We have had a couple of speakers share stories of old, and we have good, old-fashioned singing at every luncheon as well,” Gordon said. “In our two years, we have forged new relationships, reestablished old friendships, and we have mourned the loss of a few we came to love.”
Gordon said the church and volunteers are humbled to be able to provide this for the seniors in their community.
“If we, as a church family, can be a ray of sunshine and give seniors a gathering in which to look forward and show them a good time, then we will have provided not only emotional, physical, and social needs, but we will have fed the spirit as well,” Gordon said.
Gordon said this project is also an opportunity to get to know one another as community members. She said there are many elderly people who live in a nearby apartment complex, and they do not have much social interaction.
“They really look forward to this meal,” Gordon said. “And usually we pack them up a meal for the next day.”
And during the summer months, youth from Caledonia UMC are invited to attend and help with set-up, serving, and clean-up. Gordon says this gives the youth an opportunity to learn to communicate with, assist, and support the seniors.
The next Project SOUL luncheon will be held at 11 a.m. June 11 at Caledonia UMC. Bring a friend!
For more information about Project SOUL, contact Rev. Charity Gordon at (662) 825-0949 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was published in the April 26, 2019 edition of The Starkville District Newsletter at