Top: Beneficiaries of Blessed Sacrament Church’s Meals from the Heart project receiving free packed lunches from volunteers. Below: Banner outside the church announcing the charitable initiative.

Since September, Blessed Sacrament Church has been distributing free packed lunches to the needy in a project called Meals from the Heart.

The parish works with Willing Hearts, a volunteer-based non-profit organisation, which provides the meals. These are distributed to those who come to the church located in the Commonwealth/Queensway area.

The church gives out 100 packed lunches from Mondays to Saturdays between 11am and 12.30pm. Those who come are mostly in their 60s.

One recipient, Peter (not his real name), said he learned about the charitable project from a friend. The unemployed 65-year-old, who uses a walking aid, says the free lunches help him to save a bit of money “here and there”.

Project volunteer Richard Phua said parish priest Fr Anthony Hutjes wanted to do more to help the poor and needy in the vicinity.

The original idea was for a “meals on wheels” project in which the parish would deliver meals to people at their homes, said the volunteer from Fr Damien Society, the parish’s outreach arm. However, the idea was put on hold as it was believed it would be difficult to get volunteers to do the deliveries.

Nevertheless, it is hoped the project would take off in the future as many recipients are elderly, said Mr Phua.

About 20 people came to receive the free lunches when Meals from the Heart started on Sept 12. The number has since grown to about 70 with some recipients taking more than one packed lunch.

Volunteers do not ask them why they need the food, whether they are very poor or make other enquiries about their situations, said Mr Phua. “The fact that you come and ask us, we just give,” he said.

This is because volunteers want to act according to their belief that when Jesus fed the 5,000 people, He did not enquire into their status, “He just fed them,” said Mr Phua. However, he acknowledged there would always be some who will abuse the church’s generosity – “but never mind”.

From casual conversations Mr Phua had with recipients, he learnt that many are jobless, including an ex-convict whose family turned him out of their home after his release.

Meals from the Heart volunteers are now trying to help him find employment. Another recipient also managed to find a job, thanks to help from the volunteers.

While the main aim of the project is to alleviate people’s financial burdens, Mr Phua said he also sees it as an opportunity to share about Christ when some recipients confide their problems to him.

One volunteer, who wants to be known as Ms Cruz, said she was searching for an opportunity to serve in a church group when she came to know about this initiative.

The service does not require technical skills, and one receives satisfaction when one sees the people’s appreciation, she said. You know that you have helped in your own little way, she added.

Other parishes providing meals to the needy include Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Church of the Sacred Heart, Church of St Stephen and Church of St Francis of Assisi.

By Darren Boon
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