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May 15, 2014

Breaking bread: Jeffersonville church hosts Sunday breakfast

Eastside Community Church's Eastside on 8th fills gap in feeding the less fortunate

JEFFERSONVILLE — For the past 10 years Eastside Christian Church has been providing free breakfasts for the community’s underserved.

“In scripture you see that Jesus says to take care of widows and orphans,” said Dave Parkerson, outreach minister for the church and director of the Community Breakfast.

When the church decided it wanted to offer a meal, the church staff started doing some research.

“The one thing we noticed in Southern Indiana is that Southern Indiana does a good job of feeding the poor. Sunday was the one day where there was really nothing going on. We were trying to bridge that gap.”

Community Breakfast was born. Every Sunday morning volunteers from the Jeffersonville church arrive at Community Action of Southern Indiana (CASI) at 6 a.m. to prepare breakfast.

Attendance varies, running from 50 up to 130.

“You just never can tell,” Parkerson said. “At the end of the month it’s a little bit higher. A lot of people come every week.”

Irven Leffler comes most weeks, and has been pretty much since the beginning.

“It’s done well,” he said of the ministry. “The teenagers volunteer their time willingly. It’s a quality program all the way around.”

Fred Tatro comes from New Albany for the weekly meal.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “I’ve been coming for nine years. I come back so I can talk to people. I like joking around with them.”

The church sends a bus to Haven House to collect diners, and sends to-go plates back with the driver for residents who couldn’t make the trip.

The church funds the breakfasts to the tune of $15,000 a year in its annual budget. “This is our biggest, besides a couple of overseas missionaries we support,” Parkerson said.

After breakfast, Parkerson leads a church service, complete with music, for anyone interested in staying.

The breakfast has been going on for 10 years, but the “Eastside on 8th” church service is new, being held for only the 12th time on May 4.

“Not everyone stays for the service, and that’s fine,” Parkerson said. “We considered having breakfast after the service. I don’t want to make breakfast conditional on staying for the service. I don’t want to use Jesus like that.”

With no affiliation with the church, Donnie Bishop has volunteered every week for the past four years making coffee and setting up tables and chairs for both the breakfast and the church service that follows.

“I’m usually here before the cooks,” he said. “I stay and clean the tables. My thing is, if I didn’t do it somebody back there would have to come out and set up.”

Bishop, who is retired, volunteers with a number of ministries and churches, including the Exit 0 homeless ministry, and for various military events.

“A lot of people they sit around with nothing to do and 10 years later they end up dying,” he said. “I do this seven days a week.”

Weather permitting, Gwen Clark pushes her mother, Glenna Clark, in her wheelchair to the breakfast from their home on Chestnut Street near Jeff Boat.

“We’ve been coming a few years,” Gwen said. “They are nice people.”

The church also hosts a health and wellness fair in July. The event has grown so popular that this year’s event will be held at Jeffersonville High School.

“We’ve grown from a couple of hundred people to over 3,000 last year,” Parkerson said. “We needed a bigger space.”

On May 17 the church will be hosting Family Portrait Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at CASI to boost awareness of the breakfast and church service there. Three to four photographers, all church members volunteering their time and equipment, will set up to take family photos at no cost. Each family will receive one 8 by 10 and two 5 by 7s.

“We’ll have to find some backdrops and get the lighting right, but it should be really nice,” Parkerson said. “We just want to build our community and share Jesus.”

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