Berlin Church’s Spirit Kitchen Continuing To Serve; Holiday Lunch Brightens Season For Many In Need

Berlin Church’s Spirit Kitchen Continuing To Serve; Holiday Lunch Brightens Season For Many In Need
Spirit Kitchen volunteer Betty Paulus presented lunch on Wednesday to Connie Spence, who provided a donation before accepting her meal. Photos by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Connie Spence was at the old downtown laundromat one day when volunteers from Stevenson United Methodist Church approached and offered her a sandwich. They told her they’d started a lunch program and invited her to visit the new Spirit Kitchen for a hot meal any Wednesday.

Eight years later, Spence says she hasn’t missed a meal at the church. The welcoming atmosphere that greeted her the first day she visited has kept her coming back.

“I was treated with such love,” she said. “The people are great. I like it because they support the community.”

Spence was among the first people in the doors this week as the Spirit Kitchen hosted its annual holiday meal Dec. 19. Dozens of people waited in line as 25 volunteers put the final touches on a meal that included chicken, potatoes, dressing and countless side dishes and desserts.

Vicky Nock, a member of the congregation at Stevenson, helped create the Spirit Kitchen in 2011.

“God told me to feed his people,” Nock said. “I know some will say ‘ugh holy roller’ but honestly that’s what happened.”

That first week in February 2011, the kitchen served 27 meals. Today, the nonprofit group serves 70-90 meals a week. The kitchen has a core group of volunteers — a few who are members of Stevenson, but many who are not — who show up each week to prepare meals that are offered from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the church hall.

“There are so many people in need,” Nock said. “They may not be homeless but every single one that comes here needs something.”

Volunteer Charlotte Powell, who runs the Spirit Kitchen’s food pantry, said many of those who visited were elderly and relied solely on Social Security.

“We have some that come here every week and we have others who come for two months and then we never see them again,” she said.

To stock the food pantry, the Spirit Kitchen partners with the Maryland Food Bank. The kitchen buys the food at a reduced rate and is able to offer those who visit for lunch a bag or two of groceries as they leave. This week, in honor of the holiday season the Spirit Kitchen made sure each attendee left with a Christmas gift and box of food.

Powell said the kitchen was funded entirely by donations. While the church provides the space free of charge, the kitchen’s volunteers are tasked with collecting the money needed to offer weekly meals. During the holiday season, several local groups hosted food drives to support the kitchen. Nock is hopeful the community will continue to support the Spirit Kitchen’s efforts regardless of the season.

“They forget about us most of the year,” she said.


Dozens of individuals are pictured enjoying the Spirit Kitchen’s annual holiday meal on Wednesday.

While the public might not be thinking of the Spirit Kitchen, Spence and her fellow patrons certainly will be.

“I just love this place,” she said. “I feel comfortable here.”

Spence added that she’d made friends she might never have met otherwise during her trips to the Spirit Kitchen.

“They’re getting more and more people and they come from all walks of life,” she said. “I’ve gotten to know every last one of them. This is an awesome place to be.”

For more information on volunteering or donating to the Spirit Kitchen, call 443-735-9222 or email [email protected].

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.