ASHLAND - God's Chuck Wagon has expanded its serving area to Ashland, and is providing free hot meal and a message of hope for anyone who wants or needs them.

The Christian outreach plans to park its yellow bus in front of The New Beginning Church, 919 Centre St., from 4 to 6 p.m. each Friday. To get a meal, a person just steps up to a window, where he is greeted with a smile and given a hot cup of soup, a hot dog or sandwich and dessert.

"We've been coming here for three weeks, and we just want to let everyone know that they can eat a hot meal for free, no matter what," said the Rev. James Bowers, 53, founder of the mobile soup kitchen and pastor of the Ministry of the Water and the Spirit, a non-denominational, independent home church in Shamokin.

May 16 was the fourth time the bus has been in Ashland. The number of meals has increased; 28 people were served in the first week, 25 in the second, 40 in the third and 44 the fourth.

God's Chuck Wagon came to New Beginning Church because its pastor, the Rev. Larry Coutlee, and Bowers are friends.

"I've known Larry since he had a church in Mount Carmel," said Bowers. "People from his church volunteered at one of my soup kitchens. We're trying to get our name out in this area so we can start helping here."

God's Chuckwagon is a non-profit organization, so it depends on donations, and Bowers said the overwhelming number of donations is proof God is in the mix.

Bowers added, "I'll tell you how we know that the Lord is in it: My church is a group of eight people, and we're feeding almost 400 people a week. So, you know it's not us. We have been blessed in being able to provide a hot meal each week to those in need and, as always, we give God the glory."

The pastor said God's Chuck Wagon also puts on memorial meals.

"For $150, we put a sign on the bus telling who the memorial meal is for. Anyone is welcome to buy a memorial meal," he said.

Bowers has a 10-year plan for God's Chuckwagon.

"Our future is in 10 years to be throughout Pennsylvania," he said. "At the end of the summer, Lord willing, Larry will have his own bus here where he can go to five towns."

"He (Pastor Bowers) is planning on a fleet of buses," said Janet Bowers.

Donations can be mailed to 829 W. Pine St., Coal Township 17866, or given at godschuckwagon.com. God's Chuckwagon is also on Facebook. The Bowers can be reached at 570-492-2392.