SANFORD — A free monthly meal that builds community and serves many in need will return to Sanford on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

The Matthew 25:35 Meals, organized and presented by teens from Holy Spirit Parish in Wells and Kennebunk and St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Sanford, have fed hundreds of community members since the inception of the initiative three years ago.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meals, which are held on the second Tuesday of each month inside the St. Ignatius parish hall on 25 Riverside Avenue, were canceled from April to August.

On Sept. 8, the meals return with take out and curbside service from 5:30-6:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

“This alternative will continue until it is safe to gather inside again,” said Carolyn Houston, faith formation director at Holy Spirit Parish.

Parishioners and community members have been wonderfully generous with donations to support the monthly meal effort, and those contributions are still needed.

“If anyone would like to support this community meal project, gift cards to Hannaford would be welcomed and used to purchase necessary supplies for this endeavor,” said Houston. “We are also looking for donations of pre-packaged, individual-sized cookies as well as fruit cups. The fruit cups must be ‘no sugar added.’”

All donations should be labeled “Matthew Meal” and dropped off at either St. Martha Church (34 Portland Road, Kennebunk) or St. Mary Church (236 Eldridge Road, Wells).

“Support in the form of prayers for volunteers and guests is always welcome, too,” said Houston.

Offering the monthly meals is a way to teach the teens about the importance of service, particularly the Bible verse Matthew 25:35 (“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, . . . “).

When the two parishes first came up with the idea of hosting the dinner in November of 2017, nobody, not even the organizers, had any idea of what would transpire.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish would provide the venue, while Holy Spirit Parish would supply the food. Other than that, it was a leap of faith.

“From the start, you had some families, some parishioners, some who were just people looking to get together with others,” said Shelly Carpenter, parish catechetical leader at St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish. “It didn’t take long to become a whole community thing.”

“It’s very humbling to know that we are helping to serve God’s people,” said Tommy Guillemette of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. “It’s nice to be able to come together with another local youth group and work together for the same cause and have a good time doing it.”

The guests also get more out of the meals than the tasty food. They get to see the present and future of the Church in action.

“This service of the teens teaches how to be the Body of Christ and how to see Christ in others,” said Houston. “The guests often remark on how joyful, attentive, and helpful the teens are while they are serving meals, cleaning up, and welcoming them.”

The meals are a gratifying labor of love for the teens.

“It’s great to see how everyone enjoys the meals and it’s great to make a difference,” said Ryan Connors of St. Martha Church.For more information, contact Carolyn Houston at 207-985-6252, 207-646-5605 or