LEWISTON — More free meals are being offered to people in the city's poorest neighborhood.
On Monday, one week after severing ties with the Trinity Jubilee Center, the Salvation Army began serving free lunches to visitors of the Root Cellar on Birch Street. On Friday, the meals at Trinity Jubilee Center returned.
By noon, the Root Cellar fed about 16 people. Three blocks away, the Jubilee Center served 95.
"There are a lot of people who are very, very comfortable coming here, some for 20 years," said Erin Reed, Trinity's volunteer and development coordinator. "They've been asking for this."
The change was sudden.
The Salvation Army pulled out on Oct.10, delivering its news in a letter to Trinity.
Lt. Jason Brake, who leads the Salvation Army's Lewiston community center, said his group severed ties because the Root Cellar offered them a chance to pray before meals and a newer space in which to work.
"It's a pretty new kitchen," Brake said. "They've revamped it and it's licensed by the state."
On Friday, Salvation Army volunteer Tony Chambers led people in a devotional and prayer before the 11:30 meal. It took about five minutes. Then people were given meals that included burgers, potatoes and other fixings.
Neither Chambers nor other volunteers were discouraged by the relatively few meals they served.
"We haven't got the word out that we are here," volunteer Roger Lebrecque said. "It will pick up."
Reed believes many people will stay at Trinity, partly out of familiarity and partly because of its role as a gathering place and warming center on cold days. Trinity opens at 8 a.m. The Root Cellar's dining area opens at 11 a.m.
"Single parents, disabled people, elderly people and homeless people come here to get a hot meal and bring meals to neighbors that are in need," Reed said.
On Monday, Trinity's board met and formally decided to continue to offer meals six days a week, including the Monday, Wednesday and Friday meals that the Salvation Army had prepared. The charity plans to buy more food from the Good Shepherd Food-Bank and to look for surplus food from local restaurants.
"As long as there is a demand for meals, we will work hard to provide them," Reed said.
Both charities are looking for an increase in donations. Trinity is looking for additional supplies of paper plates, plastic forks and similar items. Both need money.
"Food shortage is on the rise," Brake said. "The cost of food is rising. We're trying to keep up."