Five years ago, Sue Sellers invited her friends to lunch with a mission in mind — to feed not only themselves but the less fortunate. Once a month since then, Sellers has hosted the Lunch Basket in her home, raising more than $29,000 for local charities. Here, she shares how a small idea made a big difference.
Q: How does the lunch group work?
A: We come once a month, and it’s at my house. Everybody brings a dish, and we share that dish and we talk and laugh and carry on. We decide what we would have paid for that lunch in a restaurant and put that in our basket and donate it to a charity that feeds people.
Q: What made you decide to do this?
A: I saw on TV somewhere in California a bunch of ladies had gotten together for dinner. But I knew dinner wouldn’t work for my age group, so I sent a letter to some of my friends that I had a bee in my bonnet that it was an easy way to raise money for charity.
Q: What made you decide to give solely to charities feeding the hungry?
A: We all have a great empathy for children who are hungry. Having had four children, they were never hungry, but I know there are children who are. I have a granddaughter who teaches school, and she tells me about the kids who come. It just breaks my heart that any child would go to bed hungry. That seems to be all of our focus — that’s what we talk about a lot. We’re trying to help that in our own little way.
Q: To which charities have you donated?
A: Shepherd’s Table (Soup Kitchen), Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Oak City Center, Urban Ministries and Salvation Army. People suggest places. It’s not totally up to me, as long as they feed people.
Q: What is the response you get when you drop off the checks and cash you’ve collected each month?
A: Everybody’s very appreciative and astounded. I’m amazed and shocked and humbled that it’s done so well and shows no signs of slowing.
Q: How do you decide who to invite each month?
A: Most of them are Edenton Street United Methodist Church people — some were in choir, some in Sunday school. It’s a big church in Raleigh and you don’t necessarily know everybody so we have all gotten to know each other better because we come together and talk and solve the world’s problems.
Q: The Lunch Basket is starting its sixth year. Has it grown?
A: We average between 18 and 20 people, but last month we had 22. To be honest, I don’t remember how many invitations I sent out. People will bring their friends. Some people drop out and more people come. Nobody ever knows how much anybody gives. It varies from $5 to $100. My husband says, “You all are having too much fun.”
Q: What sort of food do people bring?
A: Mostly salads. Ham biscuits. There are never any two things alike. It’s almost like they compete with each other to see who can bring the best dish.
Q: Any tips for others who might try to give back in a similar way?
A: I hope that other people would start groups like this one. It is so simple. Just invite people you enjoy, and it takes care of itself. I don’t think we’ve even had a fight in five years. At least people have kept their mouth shut if they did. I just love the camaraderie and listening to everybody having a good time.
Sue Sellers — Tar Heel of the Week
Born: April 13, 1941, in Bessemer City, N.C.
Family: Married with four children and 12 grandchildren
Hobbies: Singing in choir, attending church, volunteering