BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
In the fall of 2001, approximately 30 people gathered for the first Buckley Air Force Base Chapel luncheon.
The event, started as a vision of Debbie Cruz, 460th Space Wing Chapel secretary, has grown from a small gathering held in a modular building to a large assembly in the chapel fellowship hall.
"It's really great because it really brings everyone together," said Cruz. "It's a good break during the day and there's no real formality. We all sit shoulder-to-shoulder, eat a home cooked meal and fellowship."
The first assemblies took place in a small, multi-use facility that housed the legal, contracting, finance and logistics offices.
"It was kind of like being on a camping trip," said Susan Hurd, 460th Space Wing Judge Advocate paralegal and luncheon participant since the beginning. "We started out with crockpots and roasting ovens. We didn't have a kitchen at all or running water, except for the sink in the women's restroom. There were crock pots for what seemed like miles."
As the base grew, so did the luncheons, but the camaraderie among the first few remained as strong as ever.
Now hosted in the fellowship hall, the chapel staff and volunteers utilize an industrial kitchen and are able to produce more food, which in turn allows more people to attend. This event, however, is rather different than most free lunches offered by base organizations.
"One thing that makes this program different is that it is not funded by government dollars," said Lt. Col. Robert Ward, 460th Space Wing chaplain. "The funding comes from a portion of our various chapel services tithes and offerings."
This lunch also serves another purpose.
"We hope that people will come over, see who we are, where we are, and informally meet our staff," said Cruz. "Then in the future if they have a question or an issue we are not so foreign to them. We hope that they feel comfortable coming over and asking for an appointment or talking with one of the chaplains they've sat down and had lunch with."
Whether people come for the free food or the spiritual fellowship, they undoubtedly are a part of something that impacts the base community.
"This is an opportunity for us as a base to gather together, break bread and be a family," said Ward. "We hope that people leave here nourished physically and spiritually."
The next chapel luncheon will take place May 4. There are two separate servings, 11:00 a.m. and noon. For more information, contact the Buckley AFB Chapel by phone at (720) 847-4631 or by email at email@example.com