In Lake Ozark: Serving compassion, one meal at a time


When it came to a regular meal ministry at Our Lady of the Lake parish in Lake Ozark, the parishioners had the funeral part covered.

A group of ladies were on call to serve a meal after a funeral and burial at the parish.

What was missing were meals for families of people who were headed into the hospital or who just had a birth or lost a loved one.

That all changed in the summer of 2017, thanks to a parish ministry called Compassion Meals, newly formed to fill that gap at Our Lady of the Lake.

“It came out of a social concerns committee meeting,” said organizer Melodi Graessle who along with her husband, Luke, has been a parishioner since 2015. “We wanted to cover a need that went beyond the standard funeral luncheon.”

The group consists of more than 35 women of the parish who are ready to cook as needed.

Mrs. Graessle coordinates the specifics.

“I will call the family and tell them what I know,” she explained. “I will ask them what they’d like, how many people we are cooking for and check if there any food allergies or special needs. Then, we set up a time to drop off the meal with the family.”

Mrs. Graessle then sends out an email to the group with the menu via a program called Sign-up Genius. It allows volunteers to sign-up on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“The nice part of this ministry is that we have so many ladies on our roster that if you can’t help this week, you can help next time,” Mrs. Graessle noted. “It is not just a small group of us doing all the work. We have a lot of helping hands.”

Whether it’s lasagna with a salad and breadsticks or meatloaf with a side of greens, the meals are cooked at each volunteer’s home before being dropped off at the parish and ultimately at the family’s home.

The ministry served five meals in 2017.

That grew to 15 in 2018 and 17 in 2019.

In addition, according to Mrs. Graessle, they have added four times a year where they serve parishioners who are homebound or are residents of local nursing homes.

“In February, we do a soup meal,” she explained. “In June, we do muffins and bread. Pasta is our October dish and in December, we do cookie trays. We served 18 people (who are homebound) at 15 places this past Christmas.”

She added that the people who receive these meals are very touched.

“I think they appreciate the visit as much as the meal,” Mrs. Graessle observed. “I try to spend 15 to 30 minutes at each place. They want to catch up on what is going on at church and with the other parishioners.”

That being the case, the ministry has proven to be very rewarding for everyone involved.

“The reaction is very positive,” she said. “We get the sweetest thank-you notes. Everyone is so appreciative.”