SCRANTON – Since November, parishioners of Saint Ann Parish in West Scranton have been warming hearts and filling stomachs on the second Sunday of each month.

They will do it again this weekend – Sunday, January 14 – as the parish holds its third free, sit-down community meal in the lower level of Saints Peter and Paul Church, 1309 West Locust Street, Scranton.

Members of the Saint Ann Parish Food Pantry committee who provided the second free community meal on Dec. 10.

“We felt there was a need for this meal in the west side,” Deacon Peter Lemoncelli said. “In west side, there is no other church or organization that offers this type of free meal so we always thought there would be a need.”

With the help of a Parish Social Justice Grant from the 2023 Diocesan Annual Appeal, the parish was able to begin the monthly meals and is now looking to spread the word.

More than just providing a meal to those in need, organizers have quickly realized that many in the community were looking for companionship.

“We wanted it to be a chance for the people of the community to come together and to be able to socialize, especially for those who have no one,” Deacon Lemoncelli explained. “We have found that beyond needing a meal, many guests really look forward to the conversation and interaction with other people.”

One man who has attended the meal in both November and December is over one hundred years old.

Saint Ann Parish volunteers who provided the first community meal on Sunday, Nov. 12, at Saints Peter and Paul Church.

“The people have said that they just want a chance to get out of their home and talk to someone. They either have no family left or their families live out of town, so it has really been a great benefit beyond providing food.”

The parish has three teams of volunteers who rotate in either preparing or purchasing meals.

In November, volunteers from the Legion of Mary, Ladies of the Basilica, and Cookie Committee of the parish prepared the monthly meal which featured a choice of soups, stroganoff, and desserts.

In December, the parish’s Food Pantry Committee offered a ham dinner with mashed potatoes and desserts.

This coming weekend, for the January meal, the meal hosted by the Knights of Columbus will include pasta and meatballs, salad, and dessert.

The community meals take place from 1:00-2:00 p.m. on the second Sunday of the month. Reservations are not required but are available by calling the parish rectory at (570) 342-5166.

Between 10-15 people attended the first community meal in November. That number was close to 25 in December and organizers are hoping it will continue to grow this month and throughout the new year, serving those in West Scranton in need of food or fellowship.

“We have started out slow so each of the different groups get an idea of what it is like to put on the dinner and prepare the food. Now, our next challenge is to increase the number of people who come to the dinner,” Deacon Lemoncelli added.