Kitchen of­fers hot meals served with hope

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Janelle Jessen Staff Writer jjessen@nwadg.com ■

A smell like Sun­day din­ner at grandma’s house fills the air in­side Hope’s Kitchen as peo­ple greet each other en­thu­si­as­ti­cally or sit down across the ta­ble to chat.

Pro­vid­ing a place where ev­ery­one feels wel­come and peo­ple can share a free meal is at the heart of the kitchen’s mis­sion. Meals are served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first and third Fri­day of the month in the par­ish hall of St. Mary Catholic Church, ac­cord­ing to or­ga­nizer Marie Rollins. Meals-to-go are also avail­able.

Hope’s Kitchen started five years ago as a way to fill a need, Rollins said. She be­gan to talk to lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions about the ser­vices they pro­vide and learned that no­body was serv­ing meals on Fri­day be­cause they needed a day to or­ga­nize and get sup­plies.

“I thought maybe that’s some­thing we could do in our church, you know we have the big stove, we have the re­frig­er­a­tor, we have all the stuff, and I thought, you know we need to start to do some­thing else for the com­mu­nity,” she said.

The kitchen is com­pletely pow­ered by do­na­tions and vol­un­teers, and wel­comes any­one who is in need, hun­gry, or who would just like to share a meal.

“We say we are do­ing Je­sus’ work,” she said. “If he was here, he would cook and feed peo­ple.”

In ad­di­tion to feed­ing peo­ple, Hope’s Kitchen looks for other ways to fill their needs. They col­lect travel-size sham­poos and soaps to make goody bags, and also set out a ta­ble with brochures and in­for­ma­tion about other lo­cal re­sources. Last win­ter, the church’s youth group col­lected coats, hats, gloves and socks to be passed out at Hope’s Kitchen.

How­ever, the min­istry does not pro­vide fi­nan­cial sup­port, gas cards or food boxes, Rollins said.

Peo­ple from all walks of life eat at Hope’s Kitchen, and it’s im­por­tant to Rollins to treat ev­ery­one like an hon­ored guest.

“My think­ing is, if I was invit­ing my fam­ily to din­ner, I would put a table­cloth on, I would have a cen­ter­piece on, I would put on my best and that’s what we do for them,” Rollins said.

Over the years, Hope’s Kitchen has grown to feed an av­er­age of 150 to 200 peo­ple at a time. It takes an enor­mous amount of food — more than 30 pounds of chicken, and seven res­tau­rant cans of green beans, not to men­tion other sides and desserts — to feed that many peo­ple. It also takes about 20 vol­un­teers about two days of work to pre­pare the meal.

Hope’s Kitchen is health de­part­ment cer­ti­fied, which means

the min­istry has to fol­low the same rules as res­tau­rants, such as wear­ing hair­nets and gloves in the kitchen and only us­ing USDA in­spected meats and dairy prod­ucts.

Rollins said she some­times wor­ries whether there will be enough food or enough vol­un­teers to help pre­pare the meal, but ev­ery­thing comes to­gether ev­ery time, thanks to anony­mous do­na­tions from in­di­vid­u­als and lo­cal busi­nesses they some­times re­ceive.

Chuck Cof­felt said he started vol­un­teer­ing after join­ing the Catholic church in Septem­ber 2016. He en­joys see­ing peo­ple, es­pe­cially kids, get fed and the sense of com­mu­nity that has de­vel­oped be­tween peo­ple of dif­fer­ent back­grounds.

Cof­felt noted that fel­low­ship and shar­ing a meal with others is a ba­sic hu­man need.

“I think what we’re try­ing to do is live out our Catholic faith in this com­mu­nity,” he said. “We try to let peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence the joy of the gospel by hav­ing fel­low­ship and eat­ing and be­ing fed phys­i­cally, but I think peo­ple get fed spir­i­tu­ally here too be­cause we don’t turn any­body away, we en­cour­age every­body. We try to make this as much a home en­vi­ron­ment as we can, we bring out the best that we have.”

Re­cently, Hope’s Kitchen has seen an in­crease in high school — and col­lege-age stu­dents who are look­ing to earn vol­un­teer hours and get a taste of com­mu­nity ser­vice, Rollins said.

Brooke Pi­geon, a John Brown Univer­sity stu­dent, said she started vol­un­teer­ing at Hope’s Kitchen to earn ser­vice hours for a Chero­kee Na­tion schol­ar­ship but she has con­tin­ued be­cause she en­joys mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

“I like help­ing peo­ple in need,” she said. “When you are here, you re­ally see the need be­cause there are some peo­ple we see that we know for sure are home­less. It’s just nice they can have a reg­u­lar place to come and get a meal.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about Hope’s Kitchen or to do­nate, call 524-8642.

Janelle Jessen/Siloam Sun­day

Vol­un­teers, from left, Judy Blank, Ge­or­gia Loyd and Maryette Wo­mack made plates of food at Hope’s Kitchen.

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