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HELPERS: Newmarket church barbecues cook up support for any in need

Christian Baptist Church volunteers have served hundreds of people with food insecurity through their weekly barbecues and Porch Pantry food donation locker

As summer winds to a close, we’ll soon be missing all that comes with it — like the simple act of gathering around a barbecue, enjoying the company of good friends.

At Newmarket’s Christian Baptist Church, barbecues are something enjoyed year-round — not just because it’s a way to bring people from all walks of life together, but because the weekly gathering helps address food insecurity in the community — something pastor Andrew Hamilton says is the church’s “duty” to address.

“We believe that’s why God has kept us here for 200 years,” said Hamilton. “We believe that God loves the people that fall within the shadow of our steeple so much that He has uniquely placed us here to be able to help people in need in the community.”

Every Wednesday, volunteers from the church and surrounding area serve typical barbecue fare like hot dogs and hamburgers — and hot soup when the weather gets cold — to people in need in the community, free of charge. The event runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every week, and typically serves between 50 to 150 visitors.

Food is served outdoors, rain or shine — though bad weather hasn’t been an issue for the church yet.

“We do it every single Wednesday all throughout the year,” said Hamilton. “We’ve only had two days when there’s been rain… you can call it a coincidence, but we believe it’s God answering our prayers.”

Christian Baptist Church also collects and distributes canned food, drinks, and toiletries like washcloths and toothpaste through their Porch Pantry ministry, a free food locker filled daily and open to those in need 24/7.

Started in early 2020 at the height of the pandemic, Porch Pantry was a way for the church to further assist the increased number of people they had seen coming to their door, requesting food and food vouchers.

“The need for it seemed to be huge, because almost every time we put food out, it was gone,” said Hamilton.

Though one of their more popular events, the community barbecue is a more recent undertaking for the church.

Initially serving breakfast and hot drinks to the community through two take-out windows — a decision spurred by the social distancing measures of the pandemic — they later switched their service to lunch for increased uptake, and then to the weekly cookout.

Partly influencing the switch was the 2021 donation of 600 hamburgers — and then, a year later, a barbecue grill.

The church’s congregation and community have donated generously to support the cookout, which is organized and ran by around 10 volunteers each week.

Costco has also been a generous supporter of the event, donating around $500 in gift cards — the cost of two weekly barbecues.

“We’re going to keep going and keep continuing with these meals because the need is not getting smaller. It’s getting greater,” said Hamilton.

The church welcomes canned food donations for their Porch Pantry ministry, as well as hot dogs and hamburgers for their barbecues (please call ahead at 905-895-6989).

Those who wish to volunteer with the church can call the same number or email [email protected].

Christian Baptist Church is located at 127-135 Main St. South, Newmarket.

“We’re not just serving guests on Main Street,” said Hamilton. “We have the privilege of serving Jesus with each day, with each meal, with each hotdog, with each hamburger, and with each bowl of soup.”