GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Once a week for 16 years, a group called Instruments of Peace provided a free lunch for anyone at Veterans Park in downtown Grand Rapids. But that's all over now.
Jim Flickinger had an idea for lunch 832 weeks ago. He showed up at Veterans Park with a camp stove and hot dogs and started cooking. Curious park patrons wandered over.
"We sat here on these park benches and ate hot dogs," he told 24 Hour News 8. "The crowds kept getting bigger and bigger."
But it was never about the hot dogs or the chili. It was about making friends, building a community, fellowship. Eventually, it was hard to tell who was serving whom.
With time, the crowds grew, as did the efficiency of serving the lunches. But with more people and more efficiency, there was less time to talk with people and make friends.
There is also the cost.
Because this all takes place in a city park, Instruments of Peace must provide insurance. Those costs skyrocketed eight-fold.
"The question was, are we going to spend that money on insurance," Flickinger said, "or are we going to spend that money on the people?"
So next Wednesday, for only the second time in 16 years, there will be no free lunch at Veterans Park.
"That part is very sad, yet at the same time what we are doing I don't call it shutting down, but rather modifying it," Flickinger said. "So it is a closer relationship with the poor than simply the feeding of the food."
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