By Michael Lyle VIEW STAFF WRITER
On a winter afternoon, people are lining up 30 minutes early anticipating the doors to open at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church so they can enjoy a hot meal.
Patrons include some who are homeless and others who are just down on their luck.
No matter who they are and where they come from, the Friends in the Desert Foundation is there to serve them.
“People might say the economy is recovering,” said Muriel Dufendach, secretary and facilities manager for the group. “You couldn’t tell by this program.”
Doors open at 4:30 p.m., and food is served at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 43 W. Pacific Ave. The group serves at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays and gives people a sack lunch to take with them since they don’t operate Sunday.
Friends in the Desert started when its founders noticed people rummaging through the Dumpster behind the church in the Water Street District.
Instead of turning a blind eye, they decided to come up with a solution by offering food.
What started as a few churchgoers cooking for a few individuals grew into an organization that has fed more than 100 people in one afternoon.
The group formed a nonprofit in 1999, and the church allowed it to use its facility to host the meals.
With numbers of those being served increasing, the group slowly added days it would operate, eventually opening six days a week.
“It was originally 35, maybe 40 people,” Dufendach said. “We served 97 last night.”
The third quarter of 2012 averaged about 89 people per day, she said.
“Without us, there would be a lot of hungry people,” Dufendach said.
She said many of the patrons have returned throughout the years.
“We probably have about 300 people who rotate through,” Dufendach said. “Some might not be able to come every day because of distance or other reasons.