Volunteers Alma Dulona (left) and Betty Boyd measure some of the 12.5 cups of sugar needed for their butter mochi recipe – dessert for some 100 guests at Crossroads United Church's free monthly Community Dinner.

Volunteers Alma Dulona (left) and Betty Boyd measure some of the 12.5 cups of sugar needed for their butter mochi recipe – dessert for some 100 guests at Crossroads United Church's free monthly Community Dinner.

Dinner among friends

Monthly meals for the needy held at Crossroads United Church.

Volunteers Minda Dobres and Alma Dulona don’t yet know what they’re making as they gather ingredients from a storage room and fridge in the kitchen of Crossroads United Church.

The pair, part of a team which will grow throughout this Saturday afternoon, begins with dessert.

The pile on their wheel cart grows: Evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, coconut milk, vanilla extract and an exotic-looking box of Mochiko-brand sweet rice flour.

“I’ve never made one of these crazy recipes before,” says Jason Hodgins as he hands out sheets to the first volunteers of the day.

They learn the dessert is a Hawaiian treat called butter mochi, which will be the finishing touch of a three-course meal offered for the needy at the North Delta church – a monthly event for more than a year now.

Hodgins, tinkering with the church’s new gas stoves provided by the congregation, the Scottsdale Lions and the North Delta Rotary Club, says the 100 meals are put together and served by a team of 30 to 40 rotating volunteers, who help with food purchase, advanced prep, chopping, cooking, greeting, serving and cleaning up.

Dobres, a church member for three years and self-described doorkeeper for the Sunday School, says it’s the first time she and her niece Dulona have volunteered with the dinner program.

There’s lots of work ahead of them.

Today, it’ll be chicken teriyaki on a bed of cabbage and carrots, with bean sprouts, and a salad – with optional tofu for vegetarians.

“It’s a served meal, not a buffet line,” says Hodgins, the Community Dinners program coordinator who daylights as a teacher with the Delta School District.

A few numbers for the logistically inclined: The prep involves 36 pounds of chicken, 12 cabbages, 38 green onions, 40 cups of bean sprouts, and 12.5 cups of sugar for the dessert.

The vision for the Community Dinners program began as Crossroads evolved from an amalgamation of Royal Heights United Church and St. John’s Strawberry Hill United Church a few years ago.

“As part of that (amalgamation) process, we did a visioning process about what we’re called to do in our community,” explains Hodgins. “A big thing people identified was energy and a feeling… a call… to serve the wider neighbourhood.

“Food is definitely a part of it, but it’s the tip of the iceberg. The big thing we’re trying to do is create a space where everyone that comes feels welcome and comfortable.”

And they have come: Lower-income families with children, seniors and recent immigrants.

The first meals served about 45 guests in early 2012, and the numbers have grown to a steady 100 or so.

Crossroads Community Church is located at 7655 120 St. Community dinners take place the fourth Saturday of each month. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and dinner is served at 5 p.m. Remaining dinners in 2013 will be held on Aug. 24, Sept. 28, Oct. 26, Nov. 23 and Dec. 28. For more information, call 778-593-1043 or visit http://www.crossroads-united-church.ca/

bjoseph@surreyleader.com

Surrey North Delta Leader