Free Lunch Friday

Who says there’s no free lunch? Immanuel United Methodist Church in Edwardsville would disagree. They prepare & serve lunch every Friday for whomever walks in the door. The program was started in 2004 by Floyd Fisher, who suggested offering a free meal once a week, as a service to the hungry, AND a forum for fellowship. Immanuel’s motto is “The Old Church with the New Attitude,” and the congregation was enthusiastic about stepping out in faith to engage the community in this way. Of course, recalls pastor Jackie Havis-Shear, “The big fat question was, Would we be able to afford it?”

They decided to give the program a six-month trial…and over ten years later, it’s still going strong, and has never been in the red.

Volunteers prepare and serve food from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Friday. At first, all the volunteers were members of Immanuel, but over the years many individuals and groups from other churches and civic organizations have pitched in, both serving and providing food donations.

St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church began providing workers for the program in June of 2014. They now serve on the 2nd and 5th Fridays of every month, taking charge of planning, purchasing and preparing the meals for their assigned weeks. Robin Black-Rubenstein, Pastoral Associate at St. Boniface Catholic Church, says it’s been easy to recruit volunteers from within her parish. “They’re very excited to be a part of this, very excited to do more things within the Edwardsville community.”

Sharon Koenig is the Immanuel member who now organizes Free Lunch Friday and schedules volunteers. They usually serve 50-100 people per week, and she notices several “regulars,” some of whom give free-will donations for their meals, including church members, groups coming for meetings, and some people who work downtown. “Why do people come here? We don’t always know.”

Black-Rubenstein notes, “It’s for ANYBODY. Whether they’re wanting companionship, or…whether it’s based on monetary need, whether they’re college students trying to stretch a budget…everybody’s welcome. People come from all over for all different reasons. No questions asked.”

Diane Johnson, a volunteer from St. Boniface, notes, “People that come in are very appreciative. People that come in alone, we try to have somebody sit with them. It’s good to see the older people that maybe don’t get out that often, get out & talk with others. We don’t know who’s in need financially. You see a lot of the same faces month after month.”

Free Lunch Friday is supported by donations from the GlenEd Pantry, HandiMart, A Little Taste of Heaven Bakery, the St. John’s United Methodist’s Mission Garden and other local gardeners.

To volunteer or for more information, contact the church office at 618-656-4648 or

Do you see a need in our community, and have an idea for how to address it? Leave a comment below, and together let’s look for constructive, effective approaches to help those in need.

What is Faith Coalition?

“Faith Coalition is a Christian organization united in love and truth. Our mission is to be Christ’s hands and feet in our local community and beyond. Our goal is for our area (Edwardsville / Glen Carbon, IL) churches, united through Christ, to be one body with many members in selected common missions.”

Let’s break that down:

We are “a Christian organization”—Our members come from several area churches, and our work is motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, and his commandment to serve “the least of these”(Matthew 25:40). We ALSO WELCOME participation from persons of other religions, and of no particular religion, who embrace our mission of service to others.

We are “united in love and truth”—Our goal is to unite local churches in our common purpose, seeking fellowship and understanding with each other. Jesus prayed that we may “be one” as He and the Father are One(John17:22). We strive to focus on our common faith and purpose, rather than our differences.

Our mission is to “be Christ’s hands and feet”—(from the poem attributed to Saint Teresa of Avila) We seek to manifest the love of God through service to His people. We are open to local needs that can be met through the combined efforts of area churches.

So what does Faith Coalition do?

We have done several projects, including:

  • Rehabbing the house at 922 Grand Ave, Edwardsville for resale with proceeds to benefit our local Habitat for Humanity chapter
  • Travelling to Moore, Oklahoma in 2013, and to Brookport, IL in 2014, to help repair tornado damage
  • Publicizing projects of our member churches and encouraging participation from outside their own congregations

What does Faith Coalition plan to do?

This is where YOU come in! Faith Coalition’s direction is determined by the participation of its members. We are actively seeking input from local congregations, which will suggest areas in which Faith Coalition can serve our community.

On this website, we plan to compile a list of existing service opportunities in the Edwardsville / Glen Carbon area. This list can be a resource for individuals and groups who are seeking ways to serve. It can help churches publicize their activities and recruit new members. It can also be a way for members of different churches to meet others who share their calling to particular areas of ministry; this could be the springboard for developing NEW programs and services.

How can you get involved?

  • Check the “Volunteer” page of this site to see opportunities for you to help others.
  • Check the “About” page to see if your church is already participating in Faith Coalition. If not, talk to your pastor or Mission Team leader about getting involved, OR just watch this site for our meeting times & places(usually the first Thursday of every month) and show up!
  • Let us know—on the “Contact” page—about service opportunities in your congregation or civic group; we’ll post them on our calendar!
  • Share your thoughts—on “Comments” to this blog, or on the “Contact” page—on how we can work together to benefit local needs. Let’s keep this conversation going!