This month's Napa Valley Film Festival saw movie buffs lined up around the block, eager to see the latest international independent movies and documentaries at the Uptown Theater. Across the street was a contrasting line of hungry individuals waiting for the Table to open at the Presbyterian Church.
Those at the Uptown came from far and wide across the nation while across the street were the other faces of Napa. Many were homeless, but also there were hard working men and women barely making ends meet and young struggling families. All received a welcome smile without judgement as they receive what might be their only meal of the day.
To some, the Table is their free lunch, and to others, it's their free dinner. To many, it's the only chance to have a warm, nutritious meal and break bread with friends, colleagues and others in need.
The Table has been serving free meals for over 30 years; 25 independent service organizations, faith-based groups and just good friends have served every work day over 40,000 meals a year.
Each group buys their own food while receiving some contributions from the food bank and from The Table’s own pantry. Each group does their own cooking and serving. Like clockwork, the doors open at 3 p.m. and close at 4:45, and they never reject anyone.
This Thanksgiving Day, the Table will break its closed holiday tradition and serve a good old-fashioned delicious full meal with everything from turkey to homemade pie. All are welcomed, and the doors will open to all the hungry in the afternoon at 1333 Third St.
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But there is a dark cloud on the Table’s horizon. Some groups are getting older and essential participants or leaders are finding it harder and harder to keep the meals going.
The Table needs your help. In the new year, there will be openings for groups to prepare and serve a meal for 150 to 200 hungry Napans. Some of the existing groups are as small as six persons, each dedicated to making Napa a better place. Some groups are as large as Napa Sunrise Rotary that have over 100 volunteers available to help serve and cook. As they say, size doesn't always matter; dedication and enthusiasm does.
Is The Table a magnet for the rise of more regional homeless, or is it a service to the Napa community? What we do know is most of the customers, as they are called, hail from Napa, and over 50 percent are born locally. Word of mouth keeps the locals aware of the daily menu and the servers know many by name. Seniors, retired persons, veterans, and young families all are welcome.
You can help The Table by sending an email to David Busby at email@example.com, and tell us about your group. Perhaps your group will only want to cook or serve one day a month. The Table can put you together with another. And, of course the Table can always use your financial support. Please go to NapaTable.org. The cost is generally between $100 and $200 a month, and there are some available resources that could help provide food and expenses.
Napa has been lucky to have The Table as a major emergency resource for those in our community at risk. Who says there's no free lunch in Napa?
Chris d. Craiker
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