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06/05/2014 at 3:54pm

God's TableGod’s Table Joins CCMI

Since 2001, volunteers from every church on the island have donated time, money, food, clothing and expertise at God’s Table, an ecumenical outreach program serving those in need among us.

About three years into the program, there was a ripple of dissent among some islanders who felt the program was attracting indigents, addicts and alcoholics to the town who would not otherwise have come here, and a few expressed fear and anger about some of the ‘clients’ who had wandered into the neighborhoods abutting the facility where the services are rendered - Chapel by the Sea. But with a bit of extra attention from the Sheriff’s Department, the reality that mishaps were the exception and not the rule, and an overwhelming flood of support for the program, the naysayers fell silent, and the program has soldiered on.

It has been a Herculean task, keeping the program going. But things are about to get a whole lot better for the God’s Table volunteers and the folks who come to see them each day. As of June 1st, the Community Cooperative Ministries, Inc. (CCMI) organization has folded our local program under its broad wings, a move that has been in the works for about six months.

For a while now, the God’s Table volunteers have been running the program themselves, and the board has been overseeing the administration of it. When Arlene Fisher describes how things have been for about a year or so, you can understand why she is happy about the merger. "We’ve had a lot of indians and not enough chiefs,” Fisher quips, noting that several of the God’s Table board members had been out with serious medical problems, leaving Fisher to run the daily program almost by default from her Board Secretary position. "Anywhere from seven to ten volunteers show up every morning to help prepare and serve breakfast, assemble bag lunches, sort and distribute clothing and toiletries, oversee the showers, share fellowship,” Fisher explains. Additionally, the St. Vincent de Paul Society maintains regular hours there and volunteer members offer help with things like rent assistance, emergency transportation, and food vouchers. And important health services are rendered by parish nurse, Sheila Morales, R.N., N.P., who has been tending to minor cuts and ailments, and helping with prescription services, among her many contributions at God’s Table for the past eleven years, including encouraging the group to approach CCMI.

Morales, one of about two dozen R.N.s in the Lee/Collier County area who are part of the Faith Community Nursing program administered through Lee Memorial Health System, splits her time among three churches who offer outreach programs - Chapel by the Sea here on the island, and Hope Lutheran and Amigo San Cristo in Bonita. Like Fisher, she welcomes the merger of the two organizations. "I think it’s great,” Sheila says with her characteristic positivity. "We share the same mission, serving people in need, but they bring more resources, more staff, and they have grant writers.”

Although this merger is a real shot in the arm for the God’s Table ministry, Morales stresses that they would never have been able to offer their services or to continue to do so without the ‘in kind’ contributions made by the Chapel by the Sea and its parishioners. "We use the water, the electricity, the showers, the kitchen… we couldn’t offer this ministry without them.”

It isn’t just indigents at the breakfast table each morning - there are working people whose income slacks off sharply during the summer; there are visitors who find themselves short a few dollars for a meal; there are people who have been suddenly plunged into a medical nightmare that has left them without a job or not enough money to live on. You never know who is going to walk in the door. All are welcome.

Jo List

To learn more about God’s Table, go to and click on ‘Missions’, then click on ‘God’s Table’.