Twice a month, Susan Bennett volunteers at Breakfast on Boulevard, which provides a hot breakfast and a sack lunch to needy Edmond residents.

She noticed that toward the end of the month, they were giving away more and more sack lunches than early in the month. She asked, and learned that people were taking extra sack lunches and saving them for other meals.

So through a small group at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Bennett and other volunteers started Cooks Night Out, a program that provides a hot dinner to needy residents on the last Friday of every month.

At the first dinner, they served 56 people. As the event has grown and word has spread, the church now feeds as many as 200, Bennett said.

The Oct. 28 meal will be the 16th the church has hosted.

“People who are on Social Security or WIC (a public assistance program) tend to run out of money toward the end of the month,” explained Harry Kocurek, pastoral associate for St. Johns.

Cooks Night Out is designed to help those people.

“We serve all types of people — single mothers, seniors and even people who live alone and would just like to eat with other people,” Bennett said.

The dinner has evolved as attendance has increased. In the beginning, volunteers would serve the dinner guests at their tables. Now, because the serving period is only an hour long beginning at 5:30 p.m., the meal is served buffet style.

The monthly meal takes about 24 volunteers and $300 to pull off, Bennett said.

First Presbyterian Church has volunteered at some of the dinners as well, and Bennett said she’d like to see the event grow to offer the meal more than once a month. If three other churches would join in and follow the Cooks Night Out model, the free meal could be served every Friday instead of just once a month, Bennett said.

“It’s challenging for me because I’m trying to reach out and bring in more people for the meal,” Bennett said. “We have enough food.”

Bennett said some of the guests have told her there wasn’t anything in the cupboard at home to fix. Without the meal, they would have not been able to eat.

“As a Christian, you just try to love your neighbor,” Bennett said.

Kay Sommer, 52, has been volunteering at the meal for the last few months.

“You get to the end of the week, you’ve had a long day, you’re stressed,” Sommer said. “But what a blessing it is to be there. It’s a great reward.”

For Sommer, the dinner has become another avenue for giving to the church.

“I’m not rich by any means,” Sommer said. So she’s always looking for opportunities to help that don’t necessarily involve money.

St. John’s has always had a good and deserved reputation in the community for helping the needy, Sommer said.

Kocurek said the Cooks Night Out meal is kind of like the city’s annual community Thanksgiving dinner, only on a smaller scale. And the meal is served every last Friday of the month. No exceptions.

“We don’t care if it’s Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve or whatever,” Kocurek said.

For Sommer, it’s in the helping others that she too is blessed.

“I know I get back from this more than I give.”


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