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What began as a way for church friends to get together has blossomed into a group of men dedicated to helping local restaurants that have been struggling in the midst of pandemic restrictions.

“On Sundays when we do get together, you don’t really have time to sit and talk, so this was a good way to maintain contact,” Roy Hermann said.

The group began around six years ago with Ron Luallen, who said, “There was a couple of us sitting in the back of the church, and I had just retired, and I said, ‘You know what? We ought to get together for lunch.’”

Since then, the group has gradually grown, now including more than a dozen members, of which are Hermann and Luallen, as well as Bob Davidson, Gene Borrelli, Bud Smeltzer, Tim Hood, Gary Simpson, Bill Childers, Dennis Deans, David Colin, JW Killough, Eric Bolstead, Ed Hale, Bud Tew, Jim Lentini, Tom Prange and Jens Moller, all of whom are Church of the Canyons congregants.

“The challenge is to keep the conversation away from health issues and politics,” Luallen said, jokingly.

Prior to the pandemic, the group met once a month, and once COVID-19 hit, they took a brief hiatus before starting to meet again in outdoor locations weekly.

Server, Melanie Mondragon, center, takes the orders from Gene Borrelli, left, and Bob Davidson who are part of a group of men who patronize local businesses as they order lunch at Chi-Chi’s Pizza in Canyon Country on Wednesday, 110321. Dan Watson/The Signal

Once restrictions began to ease, the group thought: What better way to help than by patronizing the affected businesses, taking particular care to tip service workers.

“Businesses were falling apart all over the valley, so we just started going to different restaurants, sharing the wealth,” Hermann said.

The group now meets every other week and has visited about a dozen restaurants across the Santa Clarita Valley thus far.

Meetings now serve a dual benefit for members of what Hermann described as a “fellowship.”

“We catch up, and then at the end, we share prayer requests, so we pray for each other throughout the week,” Davidson added.

Each meeting, Luallen will make a different dessert and the group will pray together.

“Thank you also for this group of men,” Childers said as he led the group in prayer at their most recent meeting. “I pray for their health and their well-being during this time in our country’s history, and also, Lord, I pray that we enjoy today’s lunch and continue the fellowship.”