WAIMEA, HAWAII - A Waimea church began a program to feed the hungry, and in the process, found it was nourishing people in more than one way. Here's why the St. James' Community Meal is so popular.

Live music, entertainment for kids, and a hot meal amongst friends. This is St. James Church's free food ministy for the poor, homeless, and hungry.

Waimea Community Meal co-chair Tim Bostock explains how it all started in December 2016. "We at St. James had felt for some time we wanted to do more outreach. We wanted to reach out to those around us who are houseless."

It now serves about 360 people a week, including people like Claud Sutcliffe, who says, "The feeling of openness and inclusiveness is great. The food is good."

The main meal is served at the St James Pavilion every Thursday between 4.30 p.m. and 6 p.m. The Pavilion hosts over 200 people – including over 40 kids – who enjoy fellowship, great live music, and a tasty dinner.  

Big Island Giving Tree volunteers deliver meals to those in elderly housing complexes in Waimea, houseless persons at nearby beaches, and many needy families. Fresh salads and baked treats are packed and delivered along with 90 to 110 hot meals.  

But the event also feeds people's spirit. Those who are loney find company.

Volunteer Susan Dela Cruz says, "It's more than for homeless. It's for whole community. We've seen it grown that way. Some of the seniors we used to deliver to eat here because it's their social time."

Patron Joe Miyazaki says, "I come every week. I've only missed one since the beginning."

The church would love some financial help to support the program. Bostock explains,  "We are able to afford it because farms give us so much food and we get other donations. We have just started a program called Sponsor The Meal." Community Meal Sponsors so far include MacArthur Sotheby's Realty, Clark Realty, and Elite Realty.

A single meal sponsorship costs $500, and is open to individuals and companies – who can be credited with banners and posters at the event. Contact Meal Coordinator Susan Dela Cruz for more information, at eat@stjameshawaii.org, or (808) 498-7383.

Farmers and bakers who regularly donate to the Waimea Community Meal are: Kawamata Farms, Honopua Farm, Tepa Farm, Hudson Hothouses, Real Farm, Huluhulu Farm, Mother Nature's Miracle Farm, Mamane Bakery, Sandwich Isles Bakery, and Starbucks. 

There are many involved – between 40 and 50 volunteers every week, including the Chop Crew in the morning, the cooks, the packers and deliverers, the setup and servers, and clean-up crew.  In addition to St James congregation and the Big Island Giving Tree, there are many individual volunteers and groups such as Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, HPA students, Starbucks staff, and visiting church youth groups that have helped prep and serve.  

It's so popular, it just keeps growing. Bostock smiles, "Anyone's invited. You don't have to be starving poor to come through the door."

The chuch says it loves building community one meal at a time. More at http://stjameshawaii.org/community-meal/.