Every Monday, around 4:15 p.m., a line starts to form at First United Methodist Church in Seymour.

Those waiting to get in are not there for a special weeknight worship service or Bible study group.

Instead, they are looking for a good meal and maybe some company.

Story continues below gallery

Once a week, the church’s fellowship room transforms into the Community Diner, where everyone is welcome to come and enjoy a free meal and socialize with others.

The Community Diner is a nonprofit agency that started serving meals in 2010 at the Seymour Community Center. Back then, the meals were once a month.

The meal site was moved to the church because it offered a full kitchen so food could be cooked onsite. It also increased the opportunity to serve meals from monthly to weekly.

“First Methodist came and served a meal for us at the community center and said they had a full kitchen that might work better for us,” said Lucy Dembek, president of the Community Diner’s board of directors. “The health department came and inspected and approved the site, and we were so thankful that the church was willing to partner with us.”

Dembek said the church is in a good location, especially for those who are walking to get to the diner.

But there is a need to do more based on the number of people coming in, she said. The board and church are looking at how to add a second meal day on Thursdays.

Currently, meals are served from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. every Monday, including holidays.

“It fluctuates from 40 to 80 people,” Dembek said of the number of people being served.

The Community Diner runs solely through volunteers and donations, Dembek said.

The diner doesn’t focus on a person’s income and whether they can afford to pay for a meal. The idea is to feed anyone in need, said board member Sally Spurgeon.

“We are open to anyone that needs a meal,” Spurgeon said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they are economically deprived.”

Many of those attending weekly are elderly couples or widows who may find it difficult to cook for themselves, she said. Some are disabled. Some are families with young children. Some are men and women whose spouses work second or third shifts.

Each person receives a hot, home-cooked and nutritious meal with a dessert and a friendly smile from those serving. Meals also can be prepared for carryout.

“We try to serve something that we would serve our family,” Dembek said. “We think that’s important.”

Tina Pearson and her partner, Randi, eat at the diner nearly every Monday and have been since it was at the community center.

“There’s a lot of people in the community that don’t have a place to have a meal,” Tina said. “And the food is really good here.”

Norma Hall and Maggie Laupus said they enjoy eating at the Community Diner not just for the food but for the friends they have made there.

“It has been a great place to come,” Laupus said.

The meals are sponsored, prepared and served by different groups and organizations in the community, including youth groups, churches, service clubs, business and industries, 4-H and Scout groups and local youth sports teams.

Even by offering meals once a week instead of once a month, Dembek said their food costs have not increased.

“We are able to serve around 70 people for $50 because of donations of food,” she said. “We try to stay around $1 a person. We aren’t charging $1 a person. That’s just our cost.”

In order to expand, however, Dembek said more volunteer groups are needed to step up and get involved.

“We’ve had a lot of good community support. We just need it to be steady,” she said. “We don’t want to overextend ourselves. The worst thing would be if we had to put a sign on the door that said no food, but we aren’t going to do that. We are in great shape.”

While the diner continues to serve its patrons at the church, the board of directors is still raising money for its long-term goal of purchasing its own building.

That would allow the diner to expand its hours and days even more.

“The public needs to know that we need help if we want to continue to grow,” Dembek said.

The board has raised around $30,000 for its building fund so far, she said.

“We are supporting the community and trying to do good in the community,” Dembek said.

At a glance

Donations to the Community Diner for operations or the building fund can be mailed to P.O. Box 502, Seymour, IN 47274.

Meals are free and are served from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. every Monday at First United Methodist Church, 201 E. Third St., Seymour.

Monday’s meal will be chicken and rice, green beans and dessert.

Want to help feed the hungry? Contact communitydinersey@gmail.com for information or stop by Monday during the meal to learn more.

January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.