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Volunteers keep Sunday Lunch program going at St. Ann’s Parish:

Wes Johnson and Spike Cunningham coordinate the lunches.

Preparing Sunday lunch for more than 100 guests is a challenge in its own right but, for Spike Cunningham, Wes Johnson and other volunteers of the St. Ann’s Neighborhood Sunday Lunch Program, the challenge is compounded by creating the meal from whatever donated ingredients are available from local sources. 

The Sunday Lunch program started in 1982 as a cooperative Lenten season venture between St. Ann’s Catholic Church, Grace Lutheran Church and Pacific Alliance Church. 

It is held in the St. Ann’s Catholic Church Parish Hall, one of Spokane’s oldest Catholic churches, and serves an average of 100 weekly guests, according to Spike who coordinates the program with Wes, a charter program volunteer.  Spike has helped since 1983.

“It was intended to end after Easter dinner,” Spike said, “but those that were involved enjoyed it and saw the benefit of continuing the program, so by its own energy, it carried on.”

The program was funded initially by cooperating churches but now receives support from Second Harvest, which provides some of the food. 

It also receives support from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), a USDA program, which distributes excess food commodities to feeding programs like the Sunday Lunch.  

Spike said he and Wes are able to request support from TEFAP on a quarterly basis, which provides some staple items that would otherwise be scarce.

Eight groups rotate hosting the Sunday Lunch. 

“We have had great stability over the years,” he said.  

Several groups have been serving since the program’s inception, and the newest group, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, has been serving for about eight years. 

Other currently serving groups include St. Ann’s, Spokane Valley United Methodist Church, Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ, Moran Prairie Methodist, Providence Associates, St. Peter Catholic Church and families living on Altamont Circle.

Spike said the program strives to provide a safe and welcoming environment for its guests.  Guests may enter the parish hall immediately after St. Ann’s service to enjoy coffee and donuts which the church provides.

“People are certainly there for the food,” he said, “but they are also there for the socialization and a sense of community.”

One of the hallmarks of the program and reasons for its longevity has been its simplicity and a constant focus on serving the needs of the guests, he added. 

Program coordinators meet periodically to discuss finances, coordinate schedules and plan special holiday meals.

“Other than that, everything usually takes care of itself.  There is an absolute minimum of bureaucracy,” he said.

Spike said a complete meal usually consists of salad, bread, a protein-based entrĂ©e, vegetables, fruit and dessert items along with coffee and other beverages when available.  He said the program pays a service fee to belong to Second Harvest, but the average cost of the food for each meal is less than $30 beyond the donated food.

Wes, who leads the Westminster UCC group, said he always prepares enough food so guests can take a portion home. 

“I try to never run short of food,” he said.  “They appreciate the chance to take something home to others who could not come or possibly for their next meal.”

The group prepares holiday meals with menus that include roast turkey for Thanksgiving, roast beef at Christmas and ham at Easter. 

“We try to provide a meal like they might have at a nice restaurant,” Spike said.

The program is a separate nonprofit from the church and operates on a $6,000-a-year budget for program expenses beyond food.  It receives support from various civic groups, churches and businesses. 

St. Ann’s Parish hall kitchen was renovated by the church in 2015 and meets state commercial kitchen requirements, including having a commercial dishwasher.  The program recently purchased a new commercial refrigerator and is currently seeking funds to buy a new commercial freezer to store donated food items.

Wes, a retired social worker, deacon at Westminster and active in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America administration over the years, said guests often express their gratitude for the meal by assisting with cleanup afterward. 

“They want to show their appreciation by helping,” he said.  “Most of us learned that as youngsters, and it stays with us, regardless of our situation.”

Spike, former social services coordinator for subsidized housing for the elderly at Catholic Charities, has served 30 years on the board for Centerpointe, which provides social recreational activities for group home residents.  He was executive director of Centerpointe for six years.

He also volunteers at the Monastery of St. Gertrude’s Spirit Center and Catholic Charities Furniture Bank.

Although the program is currently stable, Spike sees a need bring others into leadership roles in preparation for a transition.

“The need will not go away,” he said, “so the challenge will be to pass it on to new leadership.”

Wes countered by saying that he will likely be carried out of the kitchen feet first.

“It’s important for me to be active, I don’t want to sit around and vegetate.  I want to be around people and this allows me to do that,” he said.

Spike and Wes enjoy working together while serving others.

“We value each other’s contribution,” Spike said, “and serving others helps us to better appreciate the blessings we have.”

For information, call 838-3363 or email

Copyright © May 2018 - The Fig Tree