The Dining & Caring Center is the result of a pastoral challenge given to the Social Concerns Committee of Asbury First in the summer of 1992. Founder Bill Lisi recalls, “Rev. Margie Mayson challenged each of us to come back in the fall with one idea for a new ministry.” Bill had been toying with the idea of starting a food ministry and spent the summer volunteering at area soup kitchens to conduct research. “ I came away thinking that we could do it. In talking with the people [who visited the soup kitchens] I learned that there was a need for a mid-day meal on Sundays.”
That first Sunday ,January 17, 1993, eight people came for a soup and sandwich lunch. Bill asked them to help spread the word. “After the first six months or so, the word was out and we were up and going,” said Bill. “I’ve never looked back.”
The program’s name was chosen with care. “I didn’t want to call it a soup kitchen. From the beginning we wanted it to be a sit-down meal where volunteers could show how much they really cared about our guests. The idea of calling it a Dining Center just fit,” says Bill.
A few months later, Rand Warner, one of the first volunteers, joined Bill in leading the program. “Rand was focused on getting jobs for people. He read the want ads and asked around, helped the guests connect to job opportunities.”
The Asbury Dining & Caring Center has continued to thrive, guided by its spirit of offering genuine hospitality to people in need. Programs and services have been added, and the number of meals served reached 30,000 in 2013.
Bill says “From that very first sign-up sheet, we’ve always had lots of volunteers who really care about the guests. That’s what makes us different. The food is important, but it’s how we serve it that really makes an impact.”