Central Congregational Church of Newburyport, along with The Pettengill House of Salisbury and Main Street Congregational Church of Amesbury, are celebrating the 25th year of the Saturday Night Meal program.
The program began in 1997 as the brainchild of a Newburyport couple, Steve and Mary Ann Fraser. The Frasers saw a need to help families living in motel rooms along Salisbury Beach during the winter months.
Food scarcity was a reality as they learned children were often getting their dinners out of hotel vending machines.
Over the past 25 years, the meal program has grown steadily. More than 60,500 hot meals have been cooked by countless volunteers, assembled and delivered personally to each family who has signed up through the food pantry at The Pettengill House.
Stuart Johnson and Steve Fraser of Central Congregational Church have spearheaded the many details necessary for the meals to come together each month, year after year.
The program is offered once a month, nine months a year. Typically, 300 to 350 meals are distributed each month. East Parish Church of Salisbury offers its kitchen as a staging area and over the years, hundreds of volunteers, of all ages, from the Greater Newburyport community have helped with cooking, assembling meals, donating milk and driving routes.
Major sponsors include Institution for Savings bank, the General Electric Good Neighbor Fund, the Swasey Fund and Amesbury Health Charitable Trust.
“We celebrate this 25th season milestone with hearty thanks to all of our many volunteers and with particular thanks to Steve Fraser and Stuart Johnson for their leadership over all this time,” organizers said in a press release. And as well, the many families who have welcomed our volunteers at their doors,” they added. “The passing of a warm meal between strangers is incredibly powerful as a symbol of unconditional caring in our community. Here’s to many more years of Saturday Night Meal.”