Serving everyone equally:
All-volunteer Snohomish Community Kitchen offers dinners and camaraderie weekly
Rob Zimmer (right) prepares a plate of eggs and sausage casserole to be handed to his wife Leslie (center) who will add fruit salad and toast to the plate, while Sandie Wheeler (left) will serve the dinner plate to the next guest at the Community Dinner on Thursday Nov. 15 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Snohomish.
SNOHOMISH — The last diner through the doors at the Community Kitchen’s free Thursday dinner might have been the most in need.
The Community Kitchen at St. John’s Episcopal Church served about 60 people Nov. 15. They were just a few of the perhaps 200,000 who’ve come for spiritual and physical sustenance during the past quarter century.
That night the tables in the warmly lit hall were all empty when Cassie Diamond hurried in. Having missed the dinner rush when service began at 4:30 p.m., she asked frantically if there was still any food.
Reassured that there was, she teared up. It had been a long 24 hours. The hot meal was the first comfort in it after a late night breakup with her boyfriend the night before. Along with the breakup, Diamond, who said Diamond was the name she was known as on the streets, was dealing with homelessness and withdrawal from quitting drug use four days prior, she said.
She had walked in the November chill for miles, she said, before hitching a ride to St. John’s, afraid she wouldn’t make it in time.
But the volunteers were there, the kitchen well stocked and people welcoming.
Soon Diamond was seated with many plates of food before her.
Caesar salad — custom made — a bag full of rolls, a plate of beef stew, and a heaping dish of freshly baked apple crisp gave her a little respite from the insecurity of her recent daily life.
The Community Kitchen exemplified at that moment the mission it’s been fulfilling for more than two decades: to be a reliable spot for a hot meal.
Every Monday and Thursday at 4:30 p.m., the doors open for up to about 100 people who need food, companionship or both. Everyone is welcome.
Minus the beer, it feels much like “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name.
Regulars who’ve been there since the program’s inception greet each other warmly.
It beats “watching TV and staying inside,” says senior Chuck Pennington.
There’s Jeanne Gray, who’s been coming more than 15 years, first with her husband, and now widowed, to see friends.
“It’s just nice seeing the same people,” she says. Gray and Pennington have a regular table, as do many longtimers.
Diane Darling agrees with them. She makes the trip from Arlington “for the good food and my friends.”
Many people travel to the Snohomish church. There are usually several Everett visitors; some visitors take three buses each way to get to St. John’s.
“There’s less drama” here than Everett meal services, says Robert Wynkoop. He’s seen meals there disrupted by intoxicated people, he said, and prefers to be with friends in Snohomish.
“Don’t buy his bull,” jokes a woman passing by, “You
don’t have any friends here, what are you talking about.”
The ribbing continues at the tables along with the prayer requests and questions about regulars who’ve missed a night or two.
“Thank you ladies and gentlemen, good meal!” Wynkoop says before heading out until next week.
The congenial atmosphere and excellent smelling apple crisp are courtesy of volunteers.
The Community Kitchen is a community undertaking. While St. John’s always hosts, a rotating roster of several local churches and other agencies take turns organizing each meal.
They rely on donations from parishioners, residents and food banks. The fruit for the apple crisp was provided by the Snohomish Food Bank.
Donations are welcome, and “cash is good,” says
Community Kitchen president Janet Zwar. Funds and food come from many sources, for many reasons. Some people
give in memoriam, while recently, a couple requested donations in lieu of wedding gifts, Zwar said.
This night, Sandie* Wheeler is at the helm. She helped at the Community Kitchen about 20 years before, she says, and is now back as a member of Restoration Road Church, which was serving that night.
Many volunteers have served for years.
“It’s a worthy cause,” quips John Worthy, a longtime volunteer. These days he drives the shuttle bus, picking up residents who need a lift to dinner and ferrying them safely home afterward. Many of the clients no longer drive, and others don’t
have cars. While many are housed, several visitors are homeless.
Diamond didn’t know who was serving that night or how the kitchen was run. But she noticed the humble volunteers finding everything on her request list, from a special salad dressing to plastic cutlery for the road. She leaves with a hefty box of food, the gratitude evident on her face and in her profuse thanks.
* - CORRECTION: The print edition of this story misspelled Sandie Wheeler's name. The Tribune regrets the error.
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