Church, Spirit Kitchen Host Community Resource Day

Church, Spirit Kitchen Host Community Resource Day

BERLIN — A local church and its Spirit Kitchen hosted the Worcester County Homeless Committee’s Community Resource Day this week along with a number of local partner organizations.
Stevenson United Methodist Church in Berlin and its Spirit Kitchen was running at full steam on Wednesday as it is each week, but this week it coincided with the annual Community Resource Day, which provides homeless people or those on verge of it individual time with groups that provide housing, counseling, treatment and health care.
Founded in 2011, the Spirit Kitchen is organized by Vicky Nock, who has seen her project grow from serving a handful of people to dozens every week.
“It’s been truly a blessing for so many people and our congregation as well,” said Nock.
The last few years have seen the church navigating unknown territory with the Spirit Kitchen. When it began, Stevenson did not have any similar programs, and Nock and her volunteers lacked any kind of food service experience.
“The first week that we were open we only had 23 people come,” she remembered.
But it didn’t take long for the kitchen to flourish through the efforts of volunteers and partnerships with other churches and secular groups. Stevenson’s leadership has always supported the kitchen, according to Nock.
When Rev. Ron Schatz took helm of the church last year, he saw no reason to change anything with the program and lent the kitchen his full support.
“I think what it’s doing now is helping to spread the gospel through the acts that they’re doing,” he said.
As of Nov. 13, the Spirit Kitchen has served 18,435 meals to those in need, given away 3,948 bags of groceries and tracked $35,505 worth of donations. The kitchen provides a meal every Wednesday and the food pantry is open most of the year, closing only for some holidays. Average Wednesday crowds now exceed 100 people and Community Resource Days like the one held this week can draw even larger groups.
“It’s quite a bit for this little tiny church,” said Nock.
During the Community Resource Day, church partners like Atlantic General Hospital were on hand for free flu shots. Other agencies like Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services, Diakonia and the County Health Department were also available.
“We’re partnered with several of the churches in the immediate area,” said Schatz. “We have volunteers from each of the churches. We partner through other means, other than the Spirit Kitchen, with other groups in the area.”
Volunteers and donations are critical for both the Community Resource Day and the Spirit Kitchen. The seasonal nature of work in Worcester County means that the winter months can be difficult for some families. Add to that recent cuts to things like food stamps and Nock has seen a marked increase in demand in just the last month. Schatz has seen it as well.
“It’s a hurting community at this time of the year, it really is,” he said.
Nock and Schatz are both optimistic about the future of the Spirit Kitchen, however.
“Depending on how this church grows, I would like to see it expand to more than one day [per week],” said Schatz.
On Nock’s personal wish list are more holiday meals on the day of the event, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, instead of just the Wednesday before. The kitchen has already seen major expansions in terms of service while the church’s food pantry has also seen recent additions, including buying food through the state food bank, which Nock said is far more efficient than just taking donation money to a grocery store.
For more information on volunteering or donating to the Spirit Kitchen, call Stevenson United Methodist Church at 410-641-1137.
For more information on Community Resource Day for the Homeless, contact Melanie Windsor with Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services, Inc. at 410-641-4598 or Jennifer LaMade with Worcester County Health Department at 410-632-1100 ext. 1154.