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Volunteers deliver hundreds of meals across St. Louis region as food prices rise

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FLORISSANT — After 16 years delivering hundreds of Thanksgiving meals to hundreds of homes across the region, Rob Proffitt knows the service, a tradition for St. Andrew United Methodist Church here, isn’t really about the food itself.

“You get out and talk to people you’re delivering to and what you find out is, the meal itself is just a mechanism of getting in touch with people,” said Proffitt, a member who has volunteered for the event for 16 years, the last four as its lead organizer.

“What you’re really giving is hope.”

It was the 27th year that Proffitt’s family and dozens of other volunteers from St. Andrew and other local groups had served up hundreds of meals to people in need across the region on the Thanksgiving holiday.

Among others serving or delivering free Thanksgiving meals were the St. Patrick Center in downtown St. Louis, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Mehlville, Faith Lutheran Church in O’Fallon, Illinois, and Affton Christian Church in south St. Louis County. In recent days, organizations like the Salvation Army, the Urban League, Operation Food Search, and the St. Louis Area Foodbank have distributed hundreds of meals.

Like other groups, Proffitt said volunteers responded to more requests for help than in recent years.

“The need is even greater this year because of inflation and the price of everything,” he said.

What started in 1995 with parishioners delivering a few dozen meals to elderly residents of the former Wellington Arms senior living center on New Halls Ferry Road has grown into a tradition serving hundreds of households in need across St. Louis County, St. Charles County, St. Louis city and Madison County.

“There are people we’ve been serving for 15 years,” Proffitt said.

It now includes more than 30 volunteers from three local churches, four school districts and two businesses: Cooking with Savory in Florissant and Soulcial Kitchen, from Swansea.

They served meals Wednesday at the Salvation Army Ferguson Community Empowerment Center, in partnership with Christ the King United Church of Christ, at the Salvation Army’s Family Haven, an emergency shelter, and at three senior centers. On Thursday, they delivered to more than 500 homes.

Some of the deliveries were to people who would usually find a meal at another annual church dinner, at St. Ferdinand in Florissant. That tradition, which started in 1999 after a visit from Pope John Paul II, was canceled this year due to a shortage of year-round volunteers who helped plan the event, which drew hundreds of diners annually to the parish school’s gymnasium.

Proffitt said they usually try to keep deliveries within 500.

“But we just kept getting more calls, and we couldn’t say no,” he said.

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Reporter covering St. Louis County politics. Born in Algeria but grew up in St. Louis. Previously reported for The Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi, and at the Wichita Eagle in Wichita, Kansas.

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