Head to Grove Hill, Middlesbrough, on a Friday lunch time, search out St Oswald’s church hall, and you will find yourself amidst an incredible display of friendship, fellowship, and an encouraging Gospel message, followed by a free three-course lunch. This is the Genesis Project, and is headed by the Revd Kath Dean.

It was an idea that sprung up around 16 years ago. The Genesis project was initially created as a kids' club, going in to local schools and sharing faith with the children. However, in the words of Kath who now runs the lunch club, “something felt amiss.”

“The children were enjoying their time with us, but we had to send them back home afterwards to, very often, chaotic family lives. We felt that we had to provide a way to reach the family as a whole to change anything long-term for them, and so the free weekly lunch was launched.”

It wasn’t an easy beginning. Kath recounts times when she would find herself sat alone with food ready to be cooked, waiting for someone to turn up. Gradually, interest grew. Where Kath used to have to send messages out into the community, people were now finding it themselves, and through word of mouth numbers had grown from zero to six people, to ten people, and then – at the first Christmas lunch – to around 20 people.

Since these humble beginnings, the club has gone from strength to strength. Food, flowers, toys and clothes are donated from a myriad of sources, from large supermarket chains to the people that attend the club. Of course, the main attraction is the wide variety of delicious and nutritious food that is served by Kath and her fantastic team of helpers.

“It was after I’d been rejected from benefits,” says one patron, asking how he became a regular member of the lunch club. “I’d heard of the Genesis Project, but I didn’t really want to go. It’s the stereotype, I thought it would be full of old people and I wasn’t interested in that.” Then one Friday, he was sat at home, not able to get any food, and thought about coming along to the club just once, just to see what it was like. This was a few years ago, and it’s rare that this attendee would miss a lunch club now.

Others have come from as far afield as Stockton, taking numerous buses to come and enjoy the convivial atmosphere and friendly chat. Arguments that might rage outside the walls of St Oswald’s church hall where the lunch club is held are put on pause for the duration.

“Whatever the reason they come,” says Kath “they just come, and are now part of our church community. I am looking forward to seeing how things develop in the future!”

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