Altona's Free Community Meal reached a new milestone Saturday night, serving the most people since its start in September 2022, with around 200 coming through the door. Altona Bergthaler Mennonite Church helps organize the monthly event, alongside partners Seeds Church and The Community Exchange which hosts the meal.

"From the beginning, the very first community meal, we had more people than expected, and those numbers have continued to grow," explained Altona Bergthaler Mennonite Church Lead Pastor Mark Tiessen-Dyck. "The numbers of people that come fluctuates a bit. We have a challenge in estimating the amount of food to cook. We've run out of food, and sometimes we've had lots of leftovers. We're always hoping we have enough food."

It was a full house at The Community Exchange Saturday eveningIt was a full house at The Community Exchange Saturday evening

Saturday's meal also featured the second bands night to be coupled with the evening, and Tiessen-Dyck feels that played a part in the record setting crowd.

"It's great to see the diversity of people that come, newcomers to Altona, people in various socio-economic places in their lives, all kinds of different ages, so that's great."

And with a year and a half of meals under their belts, have they been able to fill the gap they were seeing?

"We wanted to provide a place where anyone in our community would be welcome to come together, without the barrier of cost, as a lot of other events like soup and pies and fundraising meals have that expectation," he noted. "This is a free meal. We emphasize you can make a contribution, if you wish. There's a place to do that, but it's kind of off to the side, so there's no expectation. That's our hope, that it brings people together. Relationships form, connections are made, and overall this community becomes just a better place to live, a more peaceful, well connected community."

The CFAM volunteers at Saturday's free community mealThe CFAM volunteers at Saturday's free community meal

Tiessen-Dyck added they are trying to bring even more community involvement to the free meal, by engaging with organizations to volunteer during the evening. CFAM Radio 950 was the volunteer group at the record setting night, with fifteen staff members, spouses and family members coming together to serve the meal, run coffee and water service, bus tables, do dishes and clean-up.

"We've been reaching out to businesses in the community to try and expand our volunteer base," he said. "We've had a group from Access Credit Union, one group from Altona Mennonite Church and tonight you folks from CFAM coming out is a great help. We would love to, in the future, be able to expand to twice a month, but we do need to increase our volunteer to make that happen." 

If your business, or organization, is interested in volunteering you can connect with Tiessen-Dyck via email . 

The next Altona Free Community Meal is April 27th.

You can listen to CFAM Radio 950 Morning Show Host Chris Sumner's conversation with Mark Tiessen-Dyck, below.