I-Team: Dozens Turn Out Daily for Free Meal

HENDERSON, Nev. -- The divide between the haves and have-nots in southern Nevada has swelled during the Great Recession. One in 9 families are living below the poverty line on less than $24,000 a year. For many, it's not enough to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

While feeding the hungry at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in downtown Henderson, Tom Johnston counts himself among them. He serves food this day, but knows he may fill a seat on another day. A cook by trade, his job search has yet to boil.

Embarrassed, a 14-year-old said he came to the church with his mom. She's pregnant and his dad can't find a job.

For 66-year-old Mary Egelski, it's even less. She, her daughter, her son-in-law and their baby all live on her Social Security monthly payments of $1,400. She said took two buses to get to the church and plans to take her plate of food home.

The first Thursday of every month is Panda Express night at St. Tim's. Six days a week, around a table set with care, the faces of poverty gather. The meal nourishes body and soul against the hopelessness born of hunger.

1 in 9: The Poverty Epidemic in Las Vegas

For Helen Fein, Chinese food is a treat she wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. She comes for the chow mein and, as a single woman living alone, the company of others. Many more who eat at the church are homeless.

In Clark County, some 43,000 people in 2011 were homeless at least once, such as James Myles, a child-like 51-year-old. He said his friend was stabbed to death last week at their homeless camp. He said he is saving up his disability checks to get his own place. Until then, it's a tent in the desert.

Single men, mothers, families and seniors fill the dining room. In all, there are 105 seats with overflow outside.

Wanda Menville is having her first meal at St. Tim's. She's a retired nurse living on disability. She said she doesn't have enough money for both shelter and food.

The non-profit Friends of the Desert Foundation coordinates the meal for hundreds of people a week at the church. If you'd like to donate or get more information, click here.


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