2013-06-07 / Community

New twist for New England tradition

Bean supper features pay-it-forward option
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer


A dessert table displays an expansive selection at a bean supper in the great hall at St. David’s Episcopal Church earlier this year. “The desserts are the most exciting part of the meal for some people,” said Cathy Zub, parish administrator. The third bean supper is being held Saturday, June 15 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. This bean supper, unlike the previous two, is being advertised as a pay-it-forward paywhat you-can meal. 
(Courtesy photo) A dessert table displays an expansive selection at a bean supper in the great hall at St. David’s Episcopal Church earlier this year. “The desserts are the most exciting part of the meal for some people,” said Cathy Zub, parish administrator. The third bean supper is being held Saturday, June 15 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. This bean supper, unlike the previous two, is being advertised as a pay-it-forward paywhat you-can meal. (Courtesy photo) KENNEBUNK — The pay-it-forward concept of charity is a debated one.

Providing someone with a service free of charge, but with the request that they either pay it forward, or donate a small amount of money in return, leaves room for selfishness, simply because one is given the option.

Cathy Zub, parish administrator at St. David’s Episcopal Church on Route 1, believes that, when given the option to give, to pay it forward, people will behave with surprising generosity.

“This is the third such supper that St. David’s has promoted in the last year as a ‘pay-what-you-can, or pay-it-forward’ meal,” Zub said, “but we didn’t really advertise as much for the first two.

“We decided to advertise it as a pay-itforward meal now. Before it was more of an experiment.”

Bean suppers are a tradition in New England and can be likened to church fellowships in the south — a blend of people prepare food at their respective homes, or in the church kitchen, and bring it together as a buffet-type meal.

Standard American fare such as hot dogs, pies, cornbread and a wide variety of salads are commonly served. And, of course, beans.

“The meal is for anyone and everyone living in our communities or visiting from away,” Zub said. “A basket is available to make a donation toward the meal.

“We ask that you pay whatever you can. A suggested donation is $8. If you can give more to help others, that would be wonderful. But if you can’t pay anything, try to pay it forward by helping someone else who may need your help in another way.”

Food charities like the bean supper are becoming more necessary in the community, Leo Menard says.

Menard works to provide students in Scarborough, Old Orchard Beach and the Saco-Biddeford area with free bagged lunches on the weekends through the BackPack Program.

He believes that hunger is affecting more than just kids.

“Twenty-five percent of kids in Maine are hungry,” said Menard. “And if the kids are hungry that means their parents are either not feeding them or they’re hungry, too.”

The bean supper complements programs such as BackPack.

“Some kids leave school on the Friday and don’t have a guaranteed meal until the following Monday at school,” Menard said.

The supper is held in St. David’s great hall.

Parishioners prepare most of the food. “This bean supper next week is sponsored by the choir and the vestry. There’s a big sign-up sheet for people who want to make additional food,” Zub said.

More than 100 people attended the last bean supper. Most of those people were not members of St. David’s, a fact of which members and church employees are proud.

“It was nice for us to say, ‘Hey this is who we are, this is what time our service is,’” Zub said.

A basket was left out for unsolicited donations and a sign told people if they couldn’t donate $8, to just pay it forward for someone else who might need their help this week. Members of the church were very surprised by the outcome.

“We made more than $8 per person. It was more like $10. There were people we hoped came because it was a low-cost meal,” Zub said.

“But there are also folks out there who wanted to put in extra dollars for someone else.”

Zub believes people gave more simply because they were given the option.

“When there is an opportunity to help someone, to reach out, our inclination is to reach out and help someone. And I think that is what is so nice about this supper concept,” Zub said.

When asked about the sum of money raised from the suppers so far, Zub did not want to disclose it, saying, the point of the bean suppers was not to turn a profit.

“It was part of a long-range plan of the church to expand our outreach program. We’re moving away from fundraising suppers and toward community outreach,” Zub said.

“It not only has been a sustainable effort, but it made sense to move forward with a pay-it-forward, pay-what-you-can supper. It’s really for all the surrounding communities and all the people of the town.”

The bean supper will be served from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 15 at the church, which is located at 138 York St., (Route 1 south).

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