The start of the new year will also bring a new collaborative effort to help those in need.
On the third Wednesday of every month, a community meal is set to be offered at the Senior Citizens Center, 616 W. Jackson St. in Vandalia. The event will be held from 2 to 5 p.m., and it will be offered to any individual or family who may need to find food and a place for fellowship.
Organizer Lisa Lamar said the idea for the meal is not only a way to help those in the homeless community or individuals who may be on low or fixed incomes.
“We know we have them in our community,” Lamar said. “I would rather give them that free meal once a month, and hope it escalates to more.”
Lamar said she would like to see the program continue from Thanksgiving to April, with the last one provided would be a big Easter dinner. A community meal is already provided on Thanksgiving Day at the Vandalia Moose Lodge.
Lamar said she is hoping to get help from local churches, community groups and other volunteers to help provide a variety of potluck meals for the events.
Several are already on board. A soft launch of the community meal was held last Thursday, where quite a few businesses pitched in supplies and many volunteers dedicated time to make it successful. The Chuck Wagon provided the food for the chili supper.
Lamar is also in talks in bringing in experts from Sarah Bush Lincoln Fayette County Hospital, the Fayette County Health Department and other entities to help provide further resources.
The soft launch last week also opened up the conversation about what other services could be offered for those in the local region. Amy Moore, CEFS Fayette County Outreach Coordinator, said the Salvation Army has helped shelter 35 individuals and families with temporary housing in 2023.
Moore said it is often discussed in her office. While her office can assist in providing hygiene products and food pantry items, finding temporary housing assistance is often at the mercy of grant funding and when it becomes available.
“Homelessness is here,” Moore said. “It’s in our county, and we are just trying to do what we can to try to alleviate it for those in our community who are experiencing it.”
Since the closest shelter is located in Mt. Vernon, Moore said a more local housing solution is needed.
“It will be very valuable to have a homeless shelter near if not in Vandalia then maybe in Fayette County or near enough to get them sheltered and housed,” she said.
Lamar said she hopes the start of these community meals will provide a helping hand for anyone in the community who needs a hand up when circumstances have become hard.
“We have a situation brewing, and covid hit a lot of people,” she said. “When I see a mother and a 9-year-old living in a van because she lost her job, I have to help.”
Lamar said there are many local businesses and individuals who have offered to help those who want to better their situations.
“We have the Fuller House who will give them a clean outfit,” she said. “Several salons will offer a shave and a shampoo. Lots of volunteers will help fill out applications.”
Anyone who wants more information or who would like to help can contact Lisa Lamar or leave a message at 618-267-9551.