Snohomish's Community Kitchen program endures
SNOHOMISH — The aroma of chicken casserole wafts through construction odors on a Monday afternoon at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Inside, volunteers bag free dinners to hand out to the 50 or so people who will soon begin visiting near the bus stop out front.
A couple of years ago, a band of regulars — largely homeless, elderly, or living on fixed incomes — would have been served restaurant-style inside the church dining hall. Many came for both the food and the fellowship.
Pandemic health restrictions halted that setup, combined with continuing renovations that closed the preparatory kitchen inside St. John’s for more than two years.
At first this one-two punch knocked out the Snohomish Community Kitchen. After pivoting to take-out, the nonprofit got back to serving meals on Mondays and Thursdays like it has for the past 22 years.
Doug Ramsay photo
Community Kitchen volunteers, including Patrick Dunican (front left), Joyce Yates (front right), Deeann Fuchs (rear left) and Madeline Renkens (rear right) prepare to-go bags Thursday, Feb. 24 to provide a salad, sandwich and chips.
“Initially the board had voted to suspend operations completely,” said the nonprofit’s president Pat Fisher. “Then someone said, ‘It’s just a virus. If we follow protocol, we should be alright.’”
The group traded silverware and plates for biodegradable containers and cutlery to follow through on keeping people fed.
After a brief change in venue at another church, the twice-a-week free meal service returned to St. John’s due to its easy bus access on Second Street. Instead of serving people inside for two hours, volunteers now distribute meal bags outside for 90 minutes from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Preparing the food begins long beforehand.
The day’s volunteers were from Hope Foursquare Church, one of 11 churches that take turns serving meals for the community kitchen. They prepared chicken casserole, green beans, tossed salad, garlic bread, and dessert — a homemade, oversize brownie that must weigh half a pound.
“I get a lot of pleasure from serving,” said Cindy Nook as she begins spooning casserole into dinner cartons. “You get to know (customers), and become friends with them. They’re always so grateful.”
Many volunteers provide dessert when their church is in charge of the meal. Main courses are provided through Volunteers of America and Dream Dinners, as well as the Snohomish Community Food Bank and donations from local restaurants.
“Two meals a week doesn’t seem like a lot,” Fisher said, “but when you look at the logistics, it takes a lot of work and planning and resources to get that out.”
Incapacitated customers who cannot come to St. John’s have their meals delivered. Some live as far away as Everett.
Volunteer Driver John Worthy and assistant Mary Suwanyut soon arrive to begin loading meals into Worthy’s small Hyundai.
Worthy usually has 25 deliveries on his route; today he has 15.
“This is what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said. “I just came (in 2004) to help fill in the gap. But when you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing…”
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