By Haylee Pence
PIQUA – Earlier this year, the Piqua Association of Churches awarded the “Hero of Faith” award to the Piqua Christian Church for their Free Meals program.
Four representatives from the church attended the Piqua Association of Churches’ annual award dinner in May. The representatives included Ann Toon, Roger Toon, Skip Lillicrap, and Executive Pastor Jeff Ratliff. Ann and Roger Toon are heavily involved in the program, and Lillicrap is very involved in the church’s activities and typically greets the congregation. Only Ratliff knew prior to the dinner that they would be receiving the award, which left the others shocked and thrilled.
Ratliff commented, “It’s nice to be recognized for doing the right thing. A lot of people do a lot of hard work around here to pass out 250 meals in one day.”
The Free Meals program was started at the end of 2020 by the congregation who wanted to be more involved with the church throughout the pandemic.
Ratliff stated, “We want to be the church, not just go to church.”
The program entered the planning and funding phase, which led to the first meal of spaghetti and meatballs to be served in February 2021. From there, the program has continued to grow and evolve. The church and its volunteers provide 250 or more hot meals each Wednesday night starting at 6 p.m. The meals are provided in a drive-thru style of serving where people sit in their cars and wait until their turn to receive the meals they need to feed their families.
Ratliff stated the reason for this is “we don’t want those that need the help to have to swallow their pride and dignity to have a hot meal. They don’t have to get out and socialize or really show their faces to other vehicles.”
The congregation spends about $2,220 a month to fund this program, and Ratliff admired the congregation’s generosity when it came to helping fund the meals.
“If we can take what the family’s going to have for dinner off someone’s mind, that’s a win for me,” stated Ratliff.
Ratliff is excited to see where the program goes from here and would like to expand the program to start providing meals to those in the community who can’t go to the church to get the meals. Ratliff would also like to expand the services that the church offers to be a “one-stop service center” for all the services someone might need, which include a shower, a hair stylist, transportation, and other services.
The current program requires at least 15-20 volunteers to run smoothly, according to Ratliff. For those who are interested in volunteering or gaining more information about the Piqua Christian Church, please contact Jeff Ratliff at [email protected] or call (937) 773-8143.