SACRAMENTO, CA - Volunteers at St. Philomene Church in Sacramento served their millionth free meal and celebrated 30 years of service.
Volunteers haven't missed a single Tuesday night in that entire time, even one night when the church's gymnasium floor flooded and they made sack lunches and served them outside.
"A lot of the people that we have are the working poor. A lot are homeless. A lot are senior citizens that toward the end of the month can't make it through. And we do get quite a few children, too," said co-founder Jeannie Bastion as she gazed over dozens of hungry visitors savoring a dinner of ham and macaroni, trimmed with a vegetable, salad and bread.
On this night, volunteers served over 600 meals, taking the total past one million, an event they celebrated to cheers and a 30th birthday cake.
"It means I get a good hot meal. It's cold out there. And we don't have a lot of food out there, being homeless," said Darcy Collom as she and a companion sat down to eat in the warm church gymnasium.
Organizers often say the only requirement for their guests is that they be hungry and the only requirement for their volunteers is that they have a loving heart.
Meals are served between 6pm and 7pm. Funds for the food are raised through private donations.
"Our prayer is to open the door one day and no one will be there, but with the economy, I don't think that's going to happen," said Bastion.
Until then, she'll be there with her other volunteers every Tuesday night.
"I say cooking at home is a problem. Cooking for a thousand is no problem," Bastion mused with a smile, as the last of those she's served for 30 years finished their meals.