Paying it forward: Cooking is just one of her talents

Cooking up a storm and coordinating outreach programs for her church are just some of the ways retired nurse Nancy Vickers stays busy.

On Thursday, Vickers and a small but dedicated volunteer group at Tunnel United Methodist Church churned out more meals than a typical household kitchen sees in a month.

The community meals-which happen the second Thursday of each month-started around two years ago when a small group of church members, including Vickers, decided they wanted to start a project that would provide an immediate benefit to the community.

“For some reason we all thought of a community meal and it started the next month,” said Vickers, 58, of Warren Township.

Around eight to 10 volunteers typically take care of planning the menu, doing the shopping, and cooking the meal on the day before and day of the event. Vickers often finds herself in the kitchen, whipping up turkey, meatloaf and a variety of other items.

The meals started with around 30 people and have now grown to the point where the volunteers sometimes cook around 100 meals each dinner, she said.

“I would love to see them grow more,” added Vickers.

The volunteers also provide home delivery, taking meals to homebound residents within a five-mile radius of the church.

The dinners have become a staple in the community, said Richard Thomas, pastor of TUMC and nearby Warren Chapel United Methodist Church.

“These dinners seemed to be received quite well…We have a mix of church people plus the needy from the community. Sometimes there are leftovers which people are able to take home,” said Thomas.

While the dinners are not about those doing the volunteer work, they have been very gratifying, said Vickers.

“You have people who you have no idea who they are and they come up and tell you ‘Man. That’s the best meal I ever had.’ That’s a great payback,” she said.

Recently, Vickers also stepped into the role of director of the church’s Mission Committee. As the new director, Vickers said she is hoping to bring all of the church’s many community outreach programs under one umbrella and to add to them.

Currently, the church is looking for coaches for Upward Basketball, a Christian-based basketball program which starts in January.

The church also organizes and participates in Relay for Life fundraising activities.

“We want to make it broader. We’re working on more things we can do for the community,” said Vickers, who added that educational programs and more youth activities are on her wish list.