This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 Issue of Round the Rock Magazine. For the full issue, click here.
Love the community.
Serve the community.
Feed the community.
Every Saturday, a core group of volunteers cook and serve lunch to anyone who needs a hot meal in Round Rock. And they have been for almost 10 years.
For Chas and Laurie Winckel, giving back to our community is what they do best. The Winckel Family began Love, Serve, Feed in 2012 and have fed close to 150,000 meals to homeless families in Round Rock.
Laurie was a choir director in the Houston area where she met & married Chas and moved to Austin. With a newborn at home, she did not want to go back into public education, so she began a homeschool choir that she was involved with for over 10 years. She began her certification program to teach vocal instructors 15 years ago and now she teaches voice lessons locally, across the United States and worldwide. Along with this, she helps emerging artists step out into the industry in Nashville.
Chas has a background in mortgage banking but now runs his own construction business, involved specifically in restoration. They raised their 2 sons, Christian and Charles, in the Round Rock area, where both graduated from Stony Point and Cedar Ridge High Schools. They have additional children and grandchildren in Utah, many of whom have come to serve before.
Back in 2011, during the Bastrop fires, the Winckel family organized a band instrument and clothing drives for the victims. But Laurie felt that wasn’t enough. And despite Chas’s reluctance (he tells the story that he would have rather watched college football.), they made their way on s Saturday morning to help out. They ended up organizing donated clothing in a parking lot that people had dropped off. It was overwhelming and they didn’t feel productive.
So they hopped in their car and drove around to find another way to help. They found the organization, Mission-Too and they cooked hot food and packaged it up to take it to the area hotels housing people who had lost everything they had. She remembers a particular moment where she was able to pray with a woman who was sobbing. It was a moment that stuck in both Chas and Laurie’s hearts.
Every weekend, the Winckel’s went to Bastrop with Mission-Too to help cook, serve, and pray for the community. They did this for several months until they were not needed anymore.
About a year later, they felt they needed to do something in our community. After a visit with someone at Round Rock ISD, they learned that there were over 1000 homeless people in our area who were not allowed to live on the streets. The children of these homeless families get fed during the week but may not have any food for the weekends.
Very quickly, an idea was born. RRISD allowed the Winckels to utilize the campus at Hernandez Middle School for a “trial run” in November 2012. They initially partnered with Mission-Too and had around 100 families show up for lunch on those 2 trial run Saturdays in November. The response was so great, that the school immediately allowed them to continue in December. They have now been there for over 9 years and they have not missed a Saturday. Even during the Pandemic and the Winter Storms this past February.
Typically, it’s hamburgers and hot dogs on the menu, with beans and fixins. “We try to make it really good.”, Winckel says, “We want it to be an experience for people to show that we love them.” They don’t limit people, they just serve until the food runs out.
A pop-up picnic with tents, tables and chairs, and BBQ grills descend on the campus each Saturday at 11AM. It takes an army of volunteers to pull it off and they have the same 10-12 who volunteer faithfully each Saturday. And they welcome any volunteers who would like to serve, including families with kids.
But it goes beyond just a meal. Through the years, they have gotten to know many in the community. They have helped families who were living in their cars move into apartments or get jobs.
Some families who have been blessed by these meals have become volunteers. It’s the true definition of “paying it forward.” The volunteers describe it as being “life-changing” as they have seen their hearts transformed by serving others in our community. Not only is Love Serve Feed impacting residents in Round Rock by feeding meals to our community, they are changing the lives of their volunteers as well.
“We are not there to judge people at all. We want anyone to come.” Winckel makes sure to mention, “We are there to be the hands and feet of Jesus and love, serve & feed people.”
On a low day, they will serve around 150 people, a high day will serve over 450 people. Every Thanksgiving, they host a Community Potluck Thanksgiving Meal, partnering with area churches. They will feed everyone who comes or pack up Thanksgiving meals to those who can’t make it.
They try to have fun themed events on holidays, with activities for kids. Sometimes, they will have live music and singers to entertain guests. And there is always a ministry staff there to greet, love and pray for people.
In 2017, they renamed their organization, “Love, Serve, Feed” and they run completely off cash and food donations. There is no paid staff. Everyone is a volunteer. You can learn more and how to help their organization at loveservefeed.com
To hear the Winckels tell it, they have been impacted more by giving back to Round Rock than they ever anticipated. I would say that our community has been blessed tenfold by this family.