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Dinner's In the Bag For Milfordians in Need

For those on public assistance, the end of the month can be a harrowing time. That, typically, is when the money runs out and when even providing for necessities, such as meals, can be a challenge. For Milford residents who find themselves in that predicament, there are several organizations who, recognizing the need, have organized free-of-charge meals on both weekly and monthly schedules.

The newest program to join in the effort to make life a little easier for those in dire circumstances is the Brown Bag Dinner program, sponsored by the parishioners of Sacred Heart of Jesus church.

Spear-headed by Donnalee Shain, the program has been serving up nutritious meals for the needy since this past April. "It was actually my idea," Shain relayed, when asked about the origins of the program. "When I was working in Boston, I used to volunteer periodically with the Arch Street Church. They had a [similar] program. We would make sandwiches and have drinks and snacks and we would walk around the streets of Boston, [bringing] them to people who were homeless." She added, "It was a wonderful program and we didn't have anything like that here in Milford, so I approached our church [saying] 'we need to find a way to help these people' and that was the beginning of the Brown Bag Dinner."

One of the big differences between the Brown Bag Dinner program and that of the Boston program is that meals are served in a fixed location - the Unitarian Universalist Church, on Pine St. "The reason that we use that church [instead of Sacred Heart] is that they have a whole kitchen and serving area set up. They've [already] met all of the regulations [required by the Board of Health]", Shain stated of the dinners served there on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. "The people who are coming to the dinners know that church. It's easily accessible."

The Brown Bag Dinner provides guests with their choice of sandwiches, drinks, vegetables, fruits, and a snack. "We try to give people choices," Shain explained. "We say 'here's the bag - what kind of sandwich do you want ... what kind of drink?' ... etc." Volunteers from Sacred Heart then fill the orders, which guests can take with them or consume on the premises. "People don't typically come and take their bag and go," Shain said, adding that there is a growing fellowship among those who regularly attend the dinners, turning the experience into somewhat of a social occasion.

Both volunteer servers and food donations come from the parishioners of Sacred Heart. "One parishioner [may] donate bread every month, one may donate deli meat," Shain cited, as an example of how the donations are organized. "People also give monetary donations. What's nice is that we're starting to see the whole parish becoming involved, not just a few people."

Traditionally, programs of this nature tend to start slowly, due to trust issues. "Whenever you offer something for free‑ in the community, people are always a little leery," Shain noted. "They want to make sure that this is really what you say it is and no one's going to ask you to produce papers or to join a certain religion."

Since it's inception, the Brown Bag Dinner program has been steadily growing, as more people in need are made aware of its existence. No reservations are required, Shain, who is assisted by fellow parishioners, Brian and Lisa Blackwell, pointed out, "just come on in".

Though the young program is starting small, contributors can rest assured that there will be no wasted food. Towards the end of the dinner, when it's apparent that no new guests will arrive, the extra food is given to anyone in attendance who requests it. "We'll say 'we have sandwiches left over ... who needs them?'" Shain explained. Unused non-perishable food is also donated to the Milford Food Pantry and to other town organizations, which provide free meals for those in need.

"The whole point is to meet the needs of the community ... it's really not a self-serving kind of thing," Shain noted. She added, "If you know someone who could benefit from the program, let them know."

Free Meals for Those in Need

Milford residents in need can take advantage of several free-of charge meal programs, offered weekly or monthly, by several Milford charitable organizations.

Brown Bag Dinner

Sponsor: Parishioners of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church

Location: Unitarian Universalist Church, Pine St.

Time: Last Saturday of each month, from 6– 7 p.m.

Menu: Sandwich, vegetable, fruit, snack, dessert, drink.

More Information Call 508-478-3536 or email tomatt4@verizon. net

Sunday Meal

Sponsor Unitarian Universalist Church

Location: Unitarian Universalist Church, Pine St.

Time: Every Sunday. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

Menu: Salad, fruit, bread, soup, featured dish, dessert.

More Information 508-473-3589 or email

Monday Lunch

Sponsor: The Blessing House

Location: The Blessing House, 85 South Bow St.

Time: Every Monday at noon.

Menu: Hot soup, bread, drinks, coffee and dessert.

More information: Call 508-482-0010

Wednesday Meal

Sponsor: Trinity Episcopal Church

Location: Trinity Episcopal Church, 17 Congress Street

Time: Last Wednesday of each month, 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Menu: Varied

More information: Email or visit


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