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United Way and Bosco feed the hungry in Selma

For more than 25 years, the Bosco Food Center, a ministry of the Edmundite missions, has been filling the stomachs of locals and with hot meals.

“They’re open seven days a week, 365 days a year, serving a great, hot meal to anyone who goes there,” said Jeff Cothran, executive director of the United Way of Selma and Dallas County. “We’re lucky and blessed to have them in our community.”

The center provides daily lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. “Anyone who walks in the door is welcome to eat at the Bosco,” said Father Stephen Hornat, director of outreach ministries. “But you have to meet the requirements of being in poverty.” The center also served meals to hurricane Katrina evacuees in 2005.

The center has prepared more than 1.3 million meals, about 215 each day, since the opening in 1983. Interest in the center has grown, especially with families.

“We are feeding twice as many as we did five years ago,” Hornat said.

Mary Gale, a supervisor, has spent 23 years at Bosco and seen many people visit the center. Some people have come for years and some have recently discovered the center, she said.

“They might some a little late in finding us, but they’ll find us soon enough,” Gale said. Sometimes people are ashamed to walk into the Bosco, although those who have gone to the center for years sometimes convince newcomers to give it a chance.

“‘Are you going up in there?’ One person might ask,” Gale said. “Then the other will say ‘Yes, it’s a hot meal.’”

Local churches donate food to the center, sometimes donating breakfast items. Although Bosco is not open during breakfast hours, Gale can always find someone outside the center interested in eating breakfast. She encourages them to come back and get lunch too.

“We welcome all donations,” Gale said.

Items, such as covered plates and foods of any kind are appreciated.

“If it can be used, we’ll use it,” Gale said.

Monetary donations or food and clothing items are collected at the Bosco Center on the corner of J.L. Chestnut Boulevard and Union Street or at the main office on Broad Street. The center uses food donated to the Selma Area Food Bank in addition to direct donations. The center has a $165,948 cost projection for 2009. Of these expenses, $10,000 is given from the United Way for the year.

“Every day is a holiday, and every day is a definitely a holiday when you come to the Bosco lunch and get a good meal,” Gale said. “We’re here if you need us, seven days a week.”