Franciscan Kitchen Serves Those in Need
Brother Jim Fields started the Franciscan Kitchen in January of 1980, 37 years ago, with the intention of taking care of anyone who needed a meal. He served seven sandwiches that first day with the help of some volunteers. Brother Jim continued that ministry until his death in 1998. Following his death, the need for a larger facility was realized and in his honor a new building was erected on the site of the old abandoned bar front, which had served its purpose for some 18 years. In 2000, the new Franciscan Kitchen was opened and it was serving about 100 people each day. For the next 15 years, it continued to grow as the need for it grew. By 2015, the daily need had grown to 450 men, women and children every weekday from 10:30-12:30. In June 2015, a new facility was opened adjoining the second-generation dining room and providing even more room to handle the ever-growing demand for meals in this area. The kitchen now serves an average of 500 meals daily and has added meals on the 3rd, 4th and 5th Saturday's of each month while praying that groups will come forth and fill in that 1st and 2nd Saturday sometime in the future.
Charles Mattingly, the Executive Director of the Franciscan Kitchen, shares that the Franciscan Kitchen was the place where he found a fulfilling and meaningful life. The staff prays before opening their doors to their guest, they pray for their guest and ask for the guidance of St. Francis and pray that he may inspire them to continue his work. Their mission is to not only provide a hot meal, but a place of comfort and safety for their guests.
Charles explained that Francis taught us to love the least and do our best to help every person we encounter. The volunteers at the kitchen put aside their social status and become one family to serve food, clean tables, wash dishes, refill drink, and offer a moment of dialogue and prayer. Each volunteer does whatever is needed to make the Kitchen what is is; a place of love, compassion, and true concern for their brothers and sisters in need.
Charles shares a story:
I witnessed at the Franciscan Kitchen : One of the Friars was talking with one of our homeless guests and noticed that the he did not have a pair of shoes. This Friar asked if he needed a pair of shoes...the guest said. 'Yes I do!' ...without hestation this Friar took off his shoes and gave them to this man. The Friar spent the rest of the day walking around the kitchen in his white socks. I am so honored to work in the presence of such devoted men and women. What a special place to witness God's hand guiding and helping those in need. We are blessed!" —
The Board of Directors, made up of some Friars and lay people, are starting to pursue other ways that the Kitchen could help the guests in relationship to health services and other needs. Various committees are being formed and they are considering ways to further assist their guests.
Charles asks that people keep the ministry in their prayers as the staff continues to serve the poor. For more information about this ministry, visit their website: Franciscan Kitchen