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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Community Feast To Celebrate 35 Years Of Feeding Rogers Park Every Sunday

"Anyone who needs a hot meal is welcome," said volunteer coordinator Northa Johnson.

Community Feast hasn't missed a Sunday meal in 35 years.
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ROGERS PARK — For 35 years, Community Feast has guaranteed a hot meal every Sunday for anyone who needs one.

On Sunday, the United Church of Rogers Park will be honoring the volunteers who have made the community program so successful. In 35 years, Community Feast has never missed a meal, providing stability to those who need it most.

There is no income requirement, all are welcome at the table, according to Community Feast’s volunteer coordinator Northa Johnson.

“Anyone who needs a hot meal and community is welcome,” she said. “You have to see how much joy and love is in the room. It’s not a soup kitchen, it is a celebration.”

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Guests at Community Feast are served restaurant style to make dinner feel just like at home.

Johnson said part of what makes Community Feast special is the presentation of the meal. Guests are served at their table, restaurant style, and everyone eats together.

Johnson said she hopes the 35th anniversary will inspire Chicagoans around the city to volunteer. Her message? If every Chicagoan spent two hours a month volunteering, the city would be a better place.

Johnson is 71 and has to use both a wheelchair and oxygen due to her diagnoses of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. But every Sunday Johnson makes the trek from Streeterville to Rogers Park.

“If I can find a way to volunteer, so can everyone else,” she said. “Everyone is depending on Lori Lightfoot. But my point is what are we going to do as a community? It’s going to take all of us to make a difference.”

Johnson said her volunteers come from all walks of life and from all corners of the city and suburbs. Some of her regular volunteers include: a group of Indian nuclear physicists, Loyola students and Jewish volunteers from Temple Jeremiah.

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Community Feast’s volunteers come from all walks of life.

Although many volunteers come to fill court-mandated and university-mandated service requirements, many of them continue coming back long after their service has been fulfilled.

Romayne Pollard is on the leadership team at Community Feast. He became involved in Community Feast from his aunt after he retired out of the Navy.

Pollard used to bike from Chatham to Rogers Park (about 40 miles roundtrip) every Sunday. Today, Pollard is a busy single dad, so he drives to save time. He runs the kitchen, helping volunteers cook nutritious meals for the guests.

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Romayne Pollard, right, is in charge of the kitchen for Community Feast.

Pollard is in charge of planning the meal and overseeing all of the kitchen operations.

“I absolutely love it,” he said. ““I always want to make sure the guests have something healthy that they can enjoy.”

Pollard said what he loves most about Community Feast is the diverse mix of volunteers and guests.

“It’s the mixture of people. We all come from different backgrounds and we all came to the program in different ways,” he said.

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Northa Johnson said places like Community Feast are instrumental to building community in the neighborhood.
Credit: Facebook
Volunteers at Community Feast get hands on instruction in the kitchen.

On Sunday, volunteers will be presented certificates of gratitude; Johnson said without them Community Feast would not be possible.

Judy Kline, who ran the program for 25 years before retiring, will also be at the service.

The service will happen at the United Church of Rogers Park, 1545 W. Morse Ave., at 10:00 a.m. And of course, later that evening Community Feast will be serving up food for the neighborhood.

“Our meals are extraordinary,” said Johnson. “If you show up, we’ll feed you.”

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