Enumclaw Calvary Presbyterian hosts Full Bellies

If Colleen Michael had her way, no one would go to bed hungry.

Such an idealistic goal might be out of reach, but her efforts have assured that disadvantaged residents can look forward to one belly-filling meal each week.

Michael, a stay-at-home mother of two, was first drawn to feeding the needy about a year ago. She envisioned something like a weekly soup kitchen, modeled on the existing – and popular – Simply Soup program offered at the Enumclaw Senior Center.

Looking for advice, Michael reached out to Rene Popke, executive director of the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation. Popke helped Michael with some early hurdles and eventually provided the biggest boost to the fledgling effort: Michael’s Full Bellies program is now officially under the umbrella of the ERHF, protected by the Foundation’s insurance.

A second major hurdle was cleared when Calvary Presbyterian Church agreed to host the weekly Full Bellies gatherings.

The weekly meals were first offered in December – with one person attending the inaugural event – but popularity has blossomed. Largely due to word-of-mouth advertising, Michael and a dedicated core group of volunteers are now seeing 60 people show up, on average. One week, there were 90.

“I have a hard time with kids going to bed hungry,” Michael said. “It pulls at my heartstrings.”

The Full Bellies program operates every Thursday, except the final Thursday of the month. That date is reserved for Simply Soup. Meals are served from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the church, 1725 Porter St. in Enumclaw.

Michael said there are no questions asked. If someone shows up and wants a meal, they are fed. Attendees spread the word, as do the folks at Plateau Outreach Ministries, the Kiwanis Food Bank and the Healthcare Foundation. Additionally, a letter was sent home with every elementary student in the Enumclaw School District.

Michael’s role is to recruit individuals, groups, families and businesses – anyone willing to support a weekly meal.

“There’s always someone willing to help,” Michael said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

Michael provides a list of suggested meals and notes that it takes somewhere between $150 and $175 to provide one of the weekly meals.

“We try to do a full, hearty meal,” she said, with an emphasis on “kid-friendly food.” Weekly menus have included things like hamburgers, sloppy Joes and a taco bar. There are no leftovers, as any food remaining is sent home with those who show up for Full Bellies.

“Anybody and everybody is welcome,” Michael said. “We really try to make it a friendly and warm environment.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring a Full Bellies meal can contact Michael at fullbellies@yahoo.com.