What do you get when you cross a United Methodist Church with a Hindi truck driving school in a Hispanic and Native American community in Utah? Answer: Tooele Community United Methodist Church. The Foundation learned about this amazing, multicultural church because it gave a grant for a new heater so that the church could continue serving Wednesday night community dinner during winter.

In 2020, Pastor Araceli Berdugo was called to keep the lights on in this historic church, established in 1871. The church leases its parsonage to the only Hindi speaking truck driving school in the nation. But the lease income combined with donations from the church members was not enough to continue supporting an appointed pastor. However, Pastor Araceli, laity at the time, would not let her church close.

She focused on Ven a la Mesa (which means Come to the Table), a Wednesday night community dinner that feeds the homeless. This free community meal feeds up to 25 people every week. Volunteers from other churches, businesses and public offices (including the mayor’s office) participate in preparing, serving and providing resources to support the meal.

When the 100 year old heater began leaking, causing water damage throughout the interior of the church, Pastor Araceli was faced with a choice to raise money for a new heater, or stop serving a hot meal to those in need during the cold winter months. She raised money from church members and others in the community, enough to qualify for the matching grant at the Methodists Helping Methodists Foundation and get a new heater.

Tooele Community United Methodist Church remains a vital connection for the residents of Tooele Utah, land of the Goshute, a tribe of Western Shoshone Native People. Tooele (pronounced too ‘el uh) comes from the Ute word for tumbleweed.

Click here to watch a movie about Tooele Community United Methodist Church.