MealsPlus is an outreach ministry of Cornerstone Community Church in Virgil, Ontario that began when church members discovered there were people living with severe epilepsy in their community who weren’t getting enough to eat.
People living with this disease are often isolated, unable to work, prohibited from driving a vehicle, or even leaving their homes for any length of time to purchase groceries. They are told not to use their stoves in case they have a seizure and injure themselves.
“Even though we didn’t know about the need,” said Karen Klassen, MealsPlus coordinator, God did and “somehow managed to bring all the pieces and parts together to make it happen.”
The seed was first planted when Cornerstone senior pastor, Ed Heinrichs, began a series of messages on how the close-knit MB congregation should be ready to leave their comfortable space and step out into their community with faith – a topic that was also discussed in Klassen’s small group.
Around the same time, the Cornerstone ladies group, which regularly prepares and freezes meals for church members needing food assistance, spread the word that they would be willing to freeze more meals if there was a need in the wider community.
MealsPlus became a reality after Klassen’s friend, Jo Penner, the founder of Epilepsy Niagara, shared concerns that many of her clients with epilepsy were not eating enough. Sometimes they purchased a single Meals on Wheels dinner and divided it up into two or more meals. Klassen saw the opportunity to match the church members’ frozen dinners and servant hearts with Epilepsy Niagara’s clients’ needs.
Since July, Cornerstone has contributed financial resources so volunteer pairs from Cornerstone and other local churches can make weekly deliveries of several frozen meals at a time to Epilepsy Niagara clients. At first, MealsPlus purchased Meals on Wheels packages while they waited for government approval to prepare the meals in their church kitchen. They also distribute donated products like toiletries and cookies – a very popular treat.
The volunteers, who are given some preliminary training by Penner, say the “plus” means they deliver more than food. They also take time to talk to their clients and find out if there are any other ways the church community can be of assistance.
“One client phoned last week just to say that she loves us all so much and that she is so very grateful for our gifts to her,” said Klassen. The volunteers report feeling just as blessed. “It’s like delivering a small bit of Christmas every week,” said one volunteer.
MealsPlus plans to expand to help other groups suffering a debilitating illness or disability. The recent government approval of the Cornerstone kitchen makes expansion possible for the ladies group to prepare meals for Epilepsy Niagara in their own facilities.
“MealsPlus is a way of giving all year round by allowing God’s love and grace to motivate us to meet people at their point of need,” said Heinrichs.