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Rio holds first community meal (copy)

Ginny McNeal, left, and Darcy Stoddard help serve food at the Neighborhood Table program's first event July 29 at the Rio Depot at Depot Park. The meal is free to attend, and the next event will be from 5:30-7 p.m. Monday at the Rio Depot.

RIO — The second monthly Neighborhood Table event will take place next week, giving Rio residents the opportunity to get to know their neighbors over a free meal.

The event, started in July by Redeemer Lutheran Church in Rio, is the last Monday of every month.

“We’re looking to build those community relationships and be a community that is strong together, and supports the needs our community,” said the Rev. Ann Walsvik of Redeemer Lutheran Church.

The event focuses on bringing people together, but also gets local businesses and community organizations involved through sponsorships and serving opportunities.

“We’ll be talking to the community club, some of the businesses, the churches, the schools,” Walsvik said. “You know, maybe the football team would like to serve, but they can’t provide all the food. We can connect them with other groups who can.”

Each month, a different Rio business will sponsor the event and provide the food needed for the meal. This month, the sponsor will be Green Line Trucking, which will provide chips and fruit and pay for sandwiches if they are not donated by another company. Neighborhood Table program coordinator Kristi Ehrman said Culver’s offered to donate custard for dessert.

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“We thought this would be a good way to sit down, share some food and share some conversations,” Ehrman said. “Maybe rub elbows with someone you haven’t before.”

Walsvik and Redeemer wanted to include a meal with the event to help address food insecurity they see in the community.

“They may not go hungry, they may not be totally without food, but by the end of the month it can be a challenge,” Walsvik said. “There are people who struggle with food needs.”

This month’s event will take place at the Rio Train Depot at the corner of Rio Street and Lincoln Avenue, but will move indoors into the Rio Middle School/High School if necessary to accommodate for weather.

Ehrman said they had about 60 people from the community come out last month, and they hope to grow that number every month.

“Anyone is invited to come on out,” Walsvik said. “You get to meet some new people and have some fun.”

Follow Nicole on Twitter @Nicole_Aimone

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