November 15, 2018 – Why I volunteer for Community Kitchen

I have worked in restaurants for my entire career. It makes me happy to feed people, and feed people well. I am a Bloomington native and I have a passion for our community. I was very fortunate to get my first position in a full service restaurant at a locally owned Mexican restaurant. The owner was extremely involved in volunteering and the local community. Volunteering was part of the culture that she created in the restaurant. She encouraged her entire staff to volunteer at the Community Kitchen of Monroe County. She also sat on the board for CASA at that time. My 18-year-old self didn’t understand the impact that these efforts had on our community.  My experience built a foundation for social service.

When I took business classes at Ivy Tech, my professor required his class to volunteer to better understand the community. Since I had previous experience at Community Kitchen I chose to do my project and volunteer time there.

My next position was at a corporate restaurant. At the time, the corporation and the general manager were very interested in giving back on a local and national level on many different platforms. This gave me the opportunity to take on responsibility as a community outreach person. Community Kitchen was the first place for me to reach out to with this new responsibility. I was able to coordinate two employees from my restaurant to come volunteer at the Kitchen during service once a week.

My career then brought me back downtown to a local restaurant. The ownership there also participated in community outreach in many ways. This continued to peak my interest to be involved. The ownership was extremely involved in Chefs’ Challenge.

Chefs’ Challenge is the largest fundraiser Community Kitchen does every year. My restaurant encouraged the staff to attend as well as encouraged them to be active in the voting process. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!!! The staff bonded over Chefs’ Challenge and the adventures that it brings year in and year out.

When I finally had the opportunity to work with Chef Seth Elgar, my Community Kitchen experience came full circle. Seth works very closely on our quarterly fundraising brunches. Volunteering at those allowed me to understand more about the different fundraisers at Community Kitchen.

Knowing that I wanted to give back to my community in some way, I decided Community Kitchen seemed like a natural place to begin. The staff and board work together whole-heartedly for the greater good of the organization. Everyone who comes to volunteer with us is extremely passionate about our mission. I am extremely proud to be a part of the Community Kitchen of Monroe County organization, and I am excited to grow as a board member.

Chantel Adcock, Board Member

August 14, 2018 – 5,400 square feet: A new era at Community Kitchen  

Seven years ago, the Community Kitchen moved its main operations to its current location at 1515 S. Rogers Street. This marked a huge step in the Kitchen’s history and its ability to fight hunger in our community.

Knowing that the Kitchen’s operations were busting at the seams at the old location, the board believed more space would resolve issues like standing room only for patrons at busy times, prepping food for new outreach programs to children and seniors, and maintaining a warehouse of food on-site for greater efficiency. What the board didn’t know was how much space would be ideal, and how many people would want to support the effort to create this new space.

The board requested a space feasibility study to review the Kitchen’s space at the time and make recommendations for what kind of space would be required to meet future need. Despite knowing things were a cramped at the 1,300 square-foot location, the board was surprised to hear the result of the feasibility study. The study recommended 5,400 square feet of space to conduct current operations and continue manageable, reasonable growth in the future.

5,400 square feet?!

The board and the Kitchen’s staff began to explore local spaces and make plans for a capital campaign to support the move. Would it be new construction on a vacant lot? Would it be a shared location with other services? Everyone agreed that it needed to be close to the old location, which was easily accessible to patrons from a variety of areas in town.

A few months later, operations manager at the time, Julius Lee, noticed the old Zucchini Prints shop go up for sale on the edge of the McDoel Gardens and Broadview Neighborhoods. He mentioned it to executive director Vicki Pierce as something to check out. They toured the space and asked, “How many square feet?” The agent sifted through the paperwork.

“It’s 5,400 square feet,” he replied.

I have served on the board for nearly 10 years. Vicki will tell you and I will confirm that, when the Kitchen is concerned, opportunities have a way of happening at just the time they are most needed. So, when we happened to locate a 5,400 square-foot building in the exact neighborhood we identified, we took notice, examined the options, and made the decision to purchase the property.

Over the next year, generous organizations and donors contributed more than $750,000 to renovate the newly purchased space. Scores of meetings, many hot days of construction, and hundreds of decisions later, the new home of the Community Kitchen opened to serve its first meal at 1515 S. Rogers Street, a location that decades ago warehoused bread loaves that were served on dinner tables across Monroe County.

With the new space, the Kitchen serves patrons with greater dignity (a seat for everyone!) and offers a family dining space for caregivers and children to connect over their meals. Programs like Backpack Buddies have more than doubled with increased capacity, and the Head Start meals program for preschoolers could have only been possible with the larger kitchen and storage areas. The Kitchen distributes nearly 35 percent more meals and snacks than it did in 2011—more than 300,000 meals and snacks in total. The space is more functional and better suited for unexpected emergency events with a newly installed generator, thanks to a grant from the City of Bloomington Community Development Block Grant program.

Thanks to all who have supported the effort to “build the Kitchen” and create a welcoming, efficient, and better prepared space for Community Kitchen’s services.

Kyla Cox Deckard, Board Member

July 20, 2018 – Chefs’ Challenge, the most underrated night out in Bloomington

My name is Seth Elgar. I’m a Bloomington native, Chef of a few restaurants for you all for the past decade, and a member of the board of directors for the Community Kitchen of Monroe County for the past 6 years. The Chefs’ Challenge event is how I became acquainted with Community Kitchen, and I wanted to share my perspective with you in hopes that you’ll be in attendance for this year’s competition.

For those who have been to the annual Chefs’ Challenge here in Bloomington, I am preaching to the choir…I’m hoping that this message reaches a multitude of those who have not, because I want to share the joy and impact that this event creates! Not just for the attendees, but the recipients of thousands of meals which get supplied each year due to the generosity of those in attendance, and the event sponsors who help to make it all possible. There is nothing like it in Bloomington, and it is always a great show!

Each year a list of local Chefs put their name in the “hat” to be voted upon to compete on the stage in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. This year it is Corbin Morwick of One World Catering, Bob Adkins of Truffles, and Chris Hoppie of Farm competing for the Golden Spatula award. All three contestants are graciously taking time out of their very busy schedules to donate an evening to entertain all in attendance with their approach to the secret seasonal ingredient, which will be presented to them mere minutes before taking the stage. They will then have a few minutes to plan their approach, before the clock starts ticking, then preparing multiple courses of rapid-fire foods in a one-hour competition right before your eyes!

So, now that you know why you need to be in attendance, all you need to decide is how much do I want to experience this event? General admission for the show is $30, and a spread of complimentary appetizers and snacks from local area independent restaurants await you with a cash bar in the lobby. There are also the bistro seats on the stage, where participants get to try the foods prepared by the competitors while drinking beer and wine on the stage above the Chefs. Those seats are up for auction ( https://unitedcountrycoffey.hibid.com/catalog/137071/12th-annual-chefs-challenge—bistro-seat-auction/ ), ending at 3 p.m. on Friday, July 27th. Having been a competitor on the stage, a member of the crowd, the service manager of the bistro seats, and an auction winner, trust me when I say that you don’t want to miss out on trying each and every creation on that stage…By far the best seats in the house!

Great food, and an even better cause. That’s the theme for the evening and I hope that you can join us on Sunday, July 29th to experience it for yourselves. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’ll see you there!

Seth Elgar, Board Member

July 12, 2018 – ACH

It is not uncommon to hear the acronym “ACH” when discussing fundraising. We, at the Community Kitchen, use “ACH” often when asking for donations to our organization. However, for those who are not familiar with fundraising or nonprofits, “ACH” may just seem like fundraising jargon.

ACH stands for is Automated Clearing House. Simply put, it is a service that allows individuals to make electronic payments to a nonprofit organization. For example, instead of writing a monthly check to the Community Kitchen, I allow an ACH service to withdraw my donation each month and direct it to the Kitchen. It is an incredibly reliable and efficient way to ensure your donation is sent and received.

The benefit of receiving regular monthly donations is invaluable to the Community Kitchen. As a donor, or potential donor, I ask that you consider giving monthly to the Kitchen. By making recurring monthly donations you provide the Kitchen with a predictable and dependable stream of income. Like most food security nonprofits, Community Kitchen’s greatest source of income is traditionally seasonal, mainly around the time of winter holidays. However, monthly donations give the Kitchen the flexibility to plan programs knowing that there is reliable cash flow.

If you are a donor to the Community Kitchen, I deeply thank you for your support. You are a key player in the growth and care of our organization and the Bloomington community.

Hope Snodgrass, Board Member

I created this graphic to demonstrate how the Community Kitchen puts monthly donations to worthy uses.

July 3, 2018 – Freedom

As I contemplate freedom in the run up to our Independence day celebration I can’t help but think about how food plays a role in the freedom most of us enjoy.

My wife and I were discussing our plans for our cookout celebration and I need to swing by and pick up some brats and buns for it on my way home from work.  But what if I couldn’t do that?  What if my situation was insecure enough that I couldn’t just swing by and grab those?  Would I not celebrate?  Would I not meet with friends?

When I was a child, we didn’t have much.  Mom was doing her best, working sometimes 3 jobs to take care of us.  We used government cheese and butter and had food stamps to help out.  I got a job in a restaurant at 15 so that mom could direct those resources towards my younger siblings.  I could earn money and eat a meal on every shift.  Without those subsidies, I would have struggled to study, play sports and perhaps even stay out of trouble.  Food security gave those things to me.  It allowed me the freedom to excel and go to college and change my socioeconomic situation.

Imagine a place where every waking moment is dedicated to securing food just to make it to the next day.  Where the distraction of hunger can stunt your ability to become educated.  Where you can’t run free and play like the other kids.  Where you spend sleepless nights worrying that you can’t feed your hungry child.  That place is here in Monroe county for many people.

Community Kitchen is dedicated to helping people have the freedom to pursue other things rather than just securing enough food to make it to the next day. To study without the constant pain and distraction of hunger. To learn a skill rather than having to help out the family in that pursuit.  To worry less and sleep more.

Wouldn’t that be a place that we could proudly say is truly Free?

Dan Williamson, Board member

 

June 28, 2018 Finding Community

Three years ago, I made a decision to leave my Central PA roots and follow my son and his
family to Bloomington, IN where they had relocated from Philadelphia the year before. They are
both in the food and beverage industry so the first people I met in Bloomington were also in that
industry. My daughter in law was working with a chef who was a very active board member with
the local non profit organization Community Kitchen in Bloomington. We were both anxious to
meet new people and very interested in volunteering in the community. I have volunteered in
many organizations over the years Girl Scouts, Community groups, School groups, National
charity groups but had never been on a board of directors especially for a local non profit..
Chef Elgar, a board member of Community Kitchen, shared his passion for the organization’s
mission, vision, and values with us as well as the great volunteer opportunities including board
membership. He invited us to one of their quarterly brunch fundraisers where we participated
as volunteers serving the patrons, and meeting guests. We had so much fun, the food was
absolutely amazing and we met other volunteers and some board members….a really great
day! If you’ve attended our brunches, you understand! If not, you must come and you will be
amazed!!
So there I was volunteering at the brunch, a relative stranger to Indiana, Bloomington and
Community Kitchen but was warmly embraced by the group of board members and volunteers,
all the while meeting and serving brunch attendees and learning about how Community Kitchen
provides food and nutrition for children and adults in need in Bloomington!
We soon attended a few board meetings, did some volunteering in the kitchen, and were
invited to join the board of directors. I have made new friends, learned so much about
non-profits, board membership and committees, fundraising, events, Bloomington and helping
others in need! Three years later I am still in awe of the wonderful, committed, dedicated and
efficient staff, the diversity, experience, passion and comradery of the Board members and the
support of the Bloomington community for this wonderful organization.. Healthy food not only
nourishes and sustains our bodies and minds but also connects us socially as evidenced by the
buzz in the kitchen by the staff and volunteers prepping, the people in our our dining room each
evening and the excitement of the children running to the van in the summer as we deliver
healthy lunches.
As a board member I have met so many wonderful people in the community, had so much fun
at our fundraisers, and learned so much about my community as well as a non profit board. I
have served meals, cut veggies and fruit, de-boned hams, made boxed lunches, helped deliver
summer meals to kids, mopped the floors, wiped tables, vacuumed the floors and loved every
minute of it.
Thank you to all our staff, volunteers and the Bloomington community for supporting this
wonderful organization!

-Jeanette Barefoot

June 11, 2018 – The Power of Volunteers

The first time I volunteered for the Community Kitchen, it was because a friend of mine asked me if I would help with the Kitchen’s first Art Auction fundraiser.

I had never volunteered for a service agency before, probably for the selfish reason of hoarding my time.  But my friend is a good salesman and convinced me that serving food and cleaning up at the Auction would be a lot of fun.

The event was great.  It was held in the ballroom at Fountain Square.  Excellent food was donated by local restaurants.  If I recall, a couple of musical groups entertained while attendees milled about the room angling for the last chance to bid on donated pieces from local artists.  At the end of the night, the volunteers were allowed to take home the leftover wine!

That was 1999, and I’ve been involved with the Kitchen ever since, serving as a board member and volunteering my time for various fundraisers.

It is interesting to think that had my friend not invited me to volunteer for the auction, I might not be involved with the Kitchen at all.  I wonder how many other volunteers have similar stories that start off as “just this once” and turn into a heartfelt dedication.

Did someone sign up at the farmer’s market to volunteer because the person at the sign-up table made eye contact?  How many have seen a Facebook post, clicked the link and found themselves registering on our volunteer page?  Which attendee at one of our fundraising events was impressed by the dedicated volunteers?  Perhaps you know the retiree who was looking to stay active and make a difference?

Who came with their parents to serve a Thanksgiving meal years ago, and now brings their children to do the same?

Who volunteered on Martin Luther King Day, and then came back the next week?

Who ate a meal that the Kitchen provided and chose to volunteer as a sign of thanks?

In a normal month the Kitchen might receive around 1,400 volunteer hours from roughly 325 different volunteers.  Those are 325 amazing stories of people giving their time and energy for the Kitchen.  For each story of how they got there, there is a story of how they impact the community, the Kitchen and some of our most at-need residents.

For starters, volunteers in March saved the Kitchen about $14,000 in wages.  That’s equivalent to about half the monthly payroll.  Put another way, payroll would be almost $300,000 higher annually if the Kitchen had to hire staff where volunteers currently serve.  That amount of additional payroll would crush the Kitchen’s finances and greatly reduce our ability to effectively administer our current programs.

Many of our volunteers come back for multiple shifts through the year.  Many are weekly volunteers.  Some may wash dishes more often here than at home!  That familiarity with the Kitchen’s programs ensures the Kitchen’s success.  In the same way that long term employees like Vicki, Tim and Adam bring efficiency and productivity to the Kitchen, multi-shift volunteers make the Kitchen run smoother.

Our volunteers also come from a variety of professions and walks of life, and those life experiences are intertwined with our patrons, staff, community partners, and everyone else they interact with.  They bring new life and energy to the Kitchen, and take home a new and changed attitude.  They make the Kitchen a community. They make it stronger.

Our volunteers have lives outside the Kitchen, so when they spend time here, they are doing so out of a desire to serve.  They want to be here.  They will tend to talk about their experiences with others.  They tell our story to people that the board or staff members perhaps don’t interact with on a regular basis.  Our volunteers are the Kitchen’s ambassadors.

At a recent Board meeting I asked how many board members had volunteered for the Kitchen before becoming a board member.  Almost every hand went up.  We have had board members volunteer because a work colleague did, or a spouse did, or a parent or grand parent did, or because they were new to town and were looking for an opportunity to make a difference.

Everyone knows that some of the best stories are told around the kitchen table.  I invite you to come sit at the proverbial Kitchen table and tell your volunteer story.

Who knows, maybe your story will also begin “I prepped food and cleaned up at a fundraiser because a friend said “c’mon it will be fun!””

Jim Becker, Board Member

May 9, 2018 – Feed Me

I joined the board of Community Kitchen of Monroe Country last year because it’s incredibly important to me that we feed people. Not just feed people, but feed them well, often, and without judgment. In my short time on this big spinning chunk of space dust, it has become clear to me that food and nutrition are a basic human right. Likewise, for us to keep all the people fed and healthy and productive, we need to fight the stigma around accepting food assistance. It’s hard work, but valuable work. Community Kitchen exemplifies this spirit in every way, every day.

I know this struggle. For whatever reason, the fact that I was a “Free Lunch Kid” surprises a lot of people. Probably because I’m so tall, and broad, and don’t look like I’ve missed a meal in my life. Like pretty much everyone, I’ve got a lot more going on below the surface than you can see.

It didn’t seem odd at the time. Sure, we got government cheese, but it was the 1970’s — a lot of people got government cheese. Things were hard all over. To my Mom’s credit, we never skipped meals. Of course, not all food is equal. Yes, we had food — but it was total crap, like canned soup and over-processed junk. And lots of soda. Hell or high water, we always had soda.

Fresh fruit and vegetables were few and far between. Mom made spinach about once a year, “for the vitamins.” I remember the “schlock” sound it made when the blackish-green, gelatinous goo finally slipped free from the can. I also remember hating it with all my heart.

Naturally, we were a clean-your-plate kind of household. Nothing was thrown out. Which is how I learned to over-eat. Seemed like I was always hungry and would finish off whatever was left. In hindsight, hunger means I wasn’t getting good nutrition. Lots of calories, yes, but not the vitamins or minerals or fiber or protein. It’s not all that surprising I was never satisfied.

My favorite “meal” growing up, the one I ate the most, was Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, reconstituted with water, and served with too many saltines crumbled into it. That was my go-to and I really enjoyed it. Like many things, I learned to hate it sometime in junior high. Several of my friends laughed in my face, “Cream of Mushroom soup? It’s an ingredient, not a meal! Hahahaha!” Now it symbolizes everything wrong with my relationship with food. There’s a can of cream of mushroom soup in our kitchen cupboard right now. It’s been there for three years, covered in dust and mocking me.

As a supposedly “well-adjusted” adult, these days I know that peer pressure is bad and celebrating our differences is healthy. But at age thirteen, it’s hard to not see yourself as others label you. They called me a “Free Lunch Kid,” so that’s what I was. I didn’t like the teasing but was grateful for the food. I grow more grateful the more I learn how critical nutrition is to a child’s development.

The science is crystal clear that kids perform better in school when they get nutritious food (How Diet and Nutrition Impact a Child’s Learning Ability; https://www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/how-diet-and-nutrition-impact-a-childs-learning-ability). Not surprisingly, education has been a huge part of how I’ve tried to improve my situation. Others aren’t as lucky. Hungry kids don’t do as well in school, which limits their earning potential and their food security as adults, as well as shortening lifespans and lowering quality of life. And then, because they don’t have the resources or knowledge, they end up passing it all on to their kids, and it starts all over again. The cycle of poverty is insidious, and destructive, and just not fair.

I see that cycle first hand, every day. The ugly reality is that food insecurity has never left me, and never will. I have very deep-seated issues with food. I’ve battled obesity since I was nine years old, and now I’m showing early signs of diabetes. I have acute obstructive sleep apnea, a condition heavily tied to obesity. My apnea is severe enough that I have to wear a mask and pressurized air hose just to sleep. I have ankle, knee, hip, and lower back problems because of my weight. And yet, even with all this — I still can’t seem to stop over-eating.

I don’t usually tell people about this, but I hoard food to the point of it causing tension in our household. My family is supportive and they love me, but our fridge is overflowing with food right now. We have a deep freeze with 18.5 cubic feet of more food. I can’t and don’t want to stop buying food. It’s irrationally important to me that my kids have all the food they ever want. And not just my kids. Feeding people is my religion. It’s as much a part of my fabric as cotton is part of the fake tuxedo t-shirt I’m wearing. Feeding people is why I exist.

The happy news is that now I get to be the father who teaches his kids about nutrition and reasonable portion sizes. And I’m the dad that loves to cook fresh veggies. I don’t even care if they are smothered in sauce, just as long as the kids eat them. My kids love steamed broccoli, roasted brussels sprouts, bacon-fried kale, pickled beets, and of course celery with peanut butter. My youngest daughter loves dipping raw “baby” carrots in ranch. We got a note sent home once because the teacher thought my oldest daughter was lying that her favorite food was creamed spinach. For my kids, this is normal, and my heart sings with the hope that they don’t inherit my bad habits. Well, at least not too many of them.

I encourage you to find ways to feed people. We each find our own ways, and yours will surely be different than mine. Reach out to your neighbors, friends, and family to see if they might appreciate a meal or a bag of groceries. Donating your time, food, or money to an established food organization like Community Kitchen is an easy and effective way to make a difference. Most importantly, just let people know you care and you want them to be happy, healthy, and fed.

Well, it’s time for me to go prepare a healthy meal for my family, and hopefully use up some of the embarrassing amount of food in the kitchen. I’ll make sure that we all have some protein, some fruit and veggies, some whole grains and carbs. Hey, maybe I’ll take down that can of mushroom soup and use it in a casserole. Maybe. Or, maybe not. Baby steps. – Troy Maynard

Serving the Kitchen through a Child’s Eyes

Community Kitchen of Monroe County does something truly unique in the nonprofit world. By bringing our community together in order to provide the joy of a full belly – especially when food security is so uncertain for many folks these days – CK inspires a lifetime of dedication to better the world, one meal at a time. The following is written by a young volunteer who believes all people benefit when one has a full belly.

“When I volunteer, I feel nice on the inside. Hopefully, I just made someone’s day by serving them.  I volunteer at C.K. because I don’t think that people of any age should have an empty stomach and not have the comfort of someone to talk to. Helping other people reminds me that there is still light  in the world.

Community Kitchen is important because you need food to survive; if you don’t have food, you starve; if you starve, you die. That’s how it is, so we need share what we have and feed the poor and the homeless because they are the real ones that need our help because food cost money and they don’t have a lot of money.

At Community Kitchen, I help with the set-up of the service line, work the service line (it’s the best place to get to know all the people!) and clean-up after service is over. My favorite part of volunteering is seeing the joy on someone’s face when they see what’s for dinner!

By helping others with providing a safe and regular environment where they can get a hot and nutritious meal, sit down and enjoy the moment, Community Kitchen is making the world a better place.”

May we all strive to make the world a better place, one meal at a time.

February 23, 2018 – This is us!

The very first meals were served at the Community Kitchen (CK) of Monroe County in March of 1983. Women from several Bloomington churches were instrumental in the organization of the Community Kitchen. Their sentiment was simple: Feed hungry people,no questions asked. This policy still stands today.

CK has grown from a small organization with one part-time employee serving meals three days a week to one with full and part time employees and volunteers serving meals six days a week.

CK has also grown the number of services it offers. CK has been very proactive in addressing the needs of at-risk children in the community. Research shows that breakfast is probably the most important meal of the day and that children who receive breakfast at school perform much better. In order to fill the gap between school years, CK started a nutritious summer breakfast program in 1994. Brown bag breakfasts are distributed ice-cream truck style, in various low income housing areas. Meals are also served on holidays.

In addition to meals, CK offers information and referral services so that patrons are aware of other programs available for their support. CK responds to the long and short term needs of its patrons. This type of social support is often just as important as the meals.

Here are CK’s basic operating principles:

-Anyone who needs a meal can eat.

-The privacy of all patrons are protected.

-Provide patrons from all walks of life with excellence.

-Meals are nutritious and there are vegetarian options.

-The majority of the food is received through the Hoosier Hills Food Bank or donated by our generous community. Supplies are supplemented by retail food purchases.

The CK continues to expand to serve the community. As of 2017, CK serves 306,628 meals and snacks, representing a 3.1% percent increase over 2016.

The 11th annual Chefs’ Challenge celebrated Lake Hubbard as the champion. This benefit, along with the four delicious brunches that are crafted by local chefs, make up the biggest fundraisers for CK programs.

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