FONTANA - The ladies of Fontana have got it in the bag.

Good will, that is.

More than a dozen ladies - and a sprinkling of men - assemble and pack bag lunches to pass out to the city's hungry and lost.

They are the Bag Ladies of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, and in addition to the chicken salad, raisins, chips and beverage they pack, they pass out hope.

Carolyn Burton, chairwoman of the project, figures they give out between 80 and 100 bag lunches on the third Friday of each month.

Burton hopes that some day, they will be able to offer the lunches every week.

"We do an assembly line the Wednesday before, and then on the Friday we pass them out in front of the church," Burton said.

The free lunch program has more than tripled in volume since the group began by making 30 lunches about 18 months ago.

"The first time we did it, we were out there with our bags yelling `free lunch today' and people thought we were doing a car wash," Burton recalled.

Now people know the ladies and the ladies know them - many by name.

"It's a lot of the same people - mostly in Veterans Park, across the street from the church," Burton said.

The park is a good location for their ministry, according to church Pastor Lara Janssen.

"We see the people in the park and they keep coming back," Janssen said. "We have the signs out inviting them to come closer to the church.


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We don't preach to them because our ministry is what we do, unless they ask us to pray with them - our goal is to feed hungry people."

In addition to food for the body, a resource table is available providing information for numerous free services.

Janssen splits her time as pastor of Gloria Dei with her position as pastor of Lutheran Church of the Cross in Rialto.

Members of both churches have come forward as volunteers, according to Janssen.

The lunches on Friday included small toys for the children.

They hope to pack fresh fruit in the bags as well. Right now, the food is all non-perishable.

Most of the expense for the lunches have been covered by members of the congregation. Sometimes generous passersby have stopped to offer a donation for the effort.

As funds become available, the hope is the effort will expand to weekly lunches. Contributions are welcome in any amount.

In addition to the lunch giveaway, Gloria Dei offers a variety of other programs, including quilters who give away quilts to the needy, and donations and volunteers for Central City Lutheran Mission in San Bernardino.

"We have a partnership with Rialto Church of the Cross, when every three months we cook and serve a meal to participants in their worship service," 45-year church member Karen Logan said.

Gloria Dei congregants also bring gently used clothing, Thanksgiving baskets and toys at Christmas.

"We're trying to reach out to the community - whether people need a big boost or a little boost," Logan added.


Reach Michel via email, find her on Twitter @michelnolan, or call her at 909-386-3859.