St. John Episcopal’s Thursday Evening Community Kitchen
The line begins to form around 4 pm on Thursdays. They come by bicycle, a few cars, but mostly walking. Some push carts that contain all of their worldly goods. Those in line do not push or shove. They are orderly and thankful. They are hungry.
As soon as school lunches are served at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Homestead, a crew of three cooks take over the kitchen. Years ago, the program started out with soup and bread. Today, the volunteers are mixing, stirring, sautéing, baking and more, the volunteers create a delicious meal. Not just a meal of soup but a real meal. Salad, meat, vegetables, starch, bread and dessert. They will feed the hungry.
Soon more volunteers, young and old, arrive and coordinate the dishes on the serving table. At 5 pm the doors open and the orderly line flows through. Children chat while adults greet others with the simple joy of seeing them this week. If clothing is needed, vouchers are given for the St. John’s thrift shop.
Every Thursday, it is the same routine and Pastor Dori Zubizarreta is proud of her flock and the work they are doing with the St. John’s Community Kitchen.
This past week, Bishop Peter Easton roamed through the room chatting with diners and volunteers alike with a grin from ear to ear. “This is one of the most diverse communities in the country. We are a hugely diverse part of the world and for me, that is part of the richness and excitement of being here. I love what is happening here.”
Pastor Zubizarreta stated, “He has been here four or five times and is very supportive of this program.”
“I’m thrilled at the presence that St. John’s has in the community with the Feeding Ministry, the school and other programs that the church presents.” added the Bishop.
Anywhere from 90 to 120 people come through the door from 5 to 6 on Thursdays. Pastor Zubizarreta smiled, “It is a very diverse population as we have a lot of single laborers and many single mothers with kids too as well as families. One of our families have been coming here for four years now and we have been watching their children grow up.”
The diocese through the Episcopal Charities help to support the program by soliciting grants every year but grants do run out and more funds are needed. A few local clubs have provided donations from time-to-time and Publix in Homestead donates all of the bread and desserts for the meals.
The Bishop explained his role, “My job is really to ensure that the congregations, the schools and the special ministries of the diocese have what they need to do their work. All we have to do is sit here for ten minutes and we can see the difference that this program and the volunteers are making.”
Pastor added, “Our volunteers are faithful and we couldn’t do it without them.” The Bishop pointed out, “We have 10 volunteers including a young father who was born and raised here, went to school here, went to college, came back and is a career man who still comes and volunteers.”
Jo Hamilton, a volunteer stated, “Many who come are not homeless but they just don’t have the resources to provide meals every day. When we started out, we didn’t have many children but now have many. Easter is coming so I’m buying enough eggs for 100 to color and I’m buying chocolate crosses for about 25 to 30 kids but I have learned.” she laughed. “I give it out after they have eaten! Volunteering for this program is such joy.”
Bishop Easton summarized, “This isn’t just about food. It is about dignity, attentiveness, and a relaxed environment. No hassles. The feeling is that if they can see Christ in how we behave and what we do, that is enough. We are doing this because of their innate humanity, not because we are trying to sell them a religious product and if they want to explore the faith in the living God, we are happy to do that.”
For more information, contact Pastor Dori Zubizarreta at 406-360-2661.
“There is no qualification to get in the door…the door is open.” stated Bishop. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: Matthew 7:7