It is hard to believe that 5 years ago, July 2015 Open Table set up a tent at Parkside Park off Marion Road and started serving free burritos to any and all who asked. The truck was still a dream back then, but that didn’t stop our founding leadership team, Pastor Lisa, Jan Vetter, Kirsten Lincoln, Pastor Dan Doering (PoH), Joyce and Larry Stacy, Mike Temple, Jimmy Coker, Robin Gunderson and Henry Homburger from rolling up their sleeves to feed those who are hungry in Rochester.

Our Mission is simple, to feed a meal to anyone who is hungry and to build relationships with volunteers and guests.

open table mission statement

The Beginning

Truth is planning had begun long before that first July. In 2014, Zumbro hosted a Saturday noon meal. It was there that Pastor Lisa met a young couple who felt as though they were falling through the cracks, living in a tent and ineligible for services due to their childless status. Pastor Lisa, Kirsten Lincoln and Jan Vetter were committed to finding new ways to reach out to members of our community experiencing barriers to receiving help.

We just want to help, everybody needs some help sometimes.

Kirsten Lincoln, PB 2015

The SEMN Synod was also challenging congregations to make a commitment to address food insecurity in their communities. A partnership with People of Hope seemed like a natural fit.

Open Table was truly started by the work of the Holy Spirit. A little over 5 years ago, the SEMN Synod had the initiative to help stop food insecurity in southeastern Minnesota. As folks started to dream about how to respond, both at People of Hope and Zumbro, we quickly realized that we were casting the same vision of a way to bring food to folks who needed it the most instead of having them come to us. When we learned that we had this shared vision, it seemed quite natural to engage in this work together to have the greatest impact possible. Thus, Open Table was formed.

Pastor Dan Doering, People of Hope

In those early days of planning partnerships were essential to getting this ministry off the ground.

  • People of Hope Lutheran Church
  • Channel One
  • Rochester Park and Recreation Department
  • Zumbro’s Gifts and Memorials
Setting up at Oak Terrace Clubhouse

That first winter, our Thursday service moved indoors and our volunteers packed up burrito fixings to serve out of the Clubhouse at Oak Terrace. The goal of Open Table has always been about fostering relationships. Volunteers packed up all the ingredients that make a burrito and made “made to order” burritos all while engaging and getting to know the guests.

The Big Yellow Truck

Meanwhile, Zumbro was celebrating their 150th Anniversary and the dream of a mobile food truck was becoming a possibility. As part of a Following in Faith Campaign to honor this 150th milestone the dream was to raise enough funds to purchase a truck and have a reserve for maintenance. We came together and shared our gifts in thanks for the good work done by the faithful for over 150 years and the Holy Spirit prevailed. A trip to Granite City Motors was made, Rich Vetter checked it out and someone gave Kirsten Lincoln the keys. Our new big yellow truck was blessed in October 2016.

Come back tomorrow for Part II!

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