Meals for those in need on Easter: Drug Court graduate continues free holiday meal handouts


With spring having just arrived and temperatures beginning to warm up, many celebrated this past Easter weekend with a traditional egg hunt or a sunrise church service.

But for Leah Rader of Napavine, Easter Sunday was once again time to break out the to-go boxes and cook up hot meals for anyone and everyone who wanted one.

Rader manages the Chevron gas station, 520 S. Tower Ave. in Centralia, and is also a graduate of the Lewis County Drug Court who has been sober now for more than six years.

Though the Chevron she manages was recently broken into and robbed, Rader, her family, coworkers and friends still spent their Easter Sunday morning cooking and preparing a spaghetti with meatballs meal.

For those who missed the chance to get a meal, Rader said leftovers will be at Gather Church, 100 S. Rock St. in Centralia, and at the Chevron, to be handed out over the next couple of days.

A mother of three, Rader first started serving up holiday meals to anyone who wanted one on Thanksgiving 2022, and since then has served up hundreds of meals each holiday on consecutive Thanksgivings, Christmases, Easter Sundays and independence days.

Rader began handing out holiday meals not only after she saw the similar efforts of the local Gather Church on Thanksgiving but also following her own experience dealing with drug abuse, homelessness and realizing just how much having a warm meal on a holiday can mean.

She also hopes to inspire other businesses to help those in need during the holidays.

Rader will next hand out free meals this Independence Day, Thursday, July 4.

“I like to stick to doing it on the day of the holiday,” Rader said.

The meal will feature a barbeque with burgers and hotdogs, beginning at 10 a.m.

As a Drug Court graduate, Rader also lets fellow Drug Court participants volunteer their time handing out meals as part of their required community service.

Drug Court was created in 2004 and is a voluntary program for addicts charged with a felony, according to Drug Court Program Manager Stephanie Miller.

The program targets high need and risk offenders with a poor prognosis for success on their own. It aids them with structure and support using a three-phase recovery program. Drug Court lasts a minimum of 16 months with most participants graduating after 19 to 22 months.

To graduate, a Drug Court participant must have a full-time job, stable housing, complete recommended treatment, be clean for at least six months and in the program for at least 16 months, have a sober mentor and pay any court-ordered fines and restitution stemming from their case, Miller added. Once a person graduates, their charges are dismissed.