The current economic situation is creating opportunities for some people to fulfill a need. Brenda Braden, of Bethel, says that the Lord kept speaking to her heart to feed his people.
“There are so many people right now who are unemployed it was keeping awake at night thinking about it and God just kept telling me to feed His people,” she said. “I argued with God, because I am more of a behind-the-scenes person, but I finally told Him that I’d try.”
Braden, a member of Bethel United Methodist Church, said the first thing she did was create a plan of action and present it to Pastor Bill Bowdle.
The first free meal was dished up on Saturday, Nov. 14 and Braden has been at the church each Saturday since then, serving free meals to anyone who comes.
"We have had as few as one person and as many as 72 people," said Braden. "I have about 10 to 12 people who help get everything ready and serve the food each week. I have a list of people who want to help, but if I have too much help, we get in each other's way."
Since the kitchen at the church is not fully equipped with stove tops or ovens, Braden cooks the food at her home and transports it to the church each week. She prepares enough food to serve 75 to 100 people.
"If we have food leftover it is sent home with different families and we usually take food to the shut-ins from our church each week. We have never run out of food," she said.
Braden says that she chose Saturday because 50 percent of the children in Bethel schools qualify for free or reduced lunches at school each day and the elderly people in the area can receive Meals on Wheels through the week. She said that the weekend is when people who are hungry need a good, hot meal. She said that people are coming from other communities to eat the free meals on Saturdays.
The word is spreading about the Kitchen of Hope and Braden says that she has received many donations.
"We have received monetary donations to purchase food from Realty Executives and KDI, a banner was donated to help get the word out and I just found out that an anonymous donor is giving us $5,000 to purchase a freezer and a steam table," said Braden. "At Christmas a lady donated 2,000 homemade cookies. We bagged them up and sent them home with everyone who came in. When St. Mary's Church served Breakfast with Santa, they had leftovers and brought them here to share. We had a man volunteer to make fliers to be handed out to the children in the schools letting them know we are here. I really look for the Kitchen of Hope to grow and expand."
She noted that she recently took a survey of those who have been coming and discovered that the majority of those coming have been more than happy with the food served and the size of the servings.
"We also received 10 prayer requests from the survey which we were able to pray for on Sunday morning," said Braden. "The Kitchen of Hope was given that name because we want to give people hope. We not only give people food for their stomachs, but we want to feed their souls as well. If we were funded by the government, we wouldn't be able to minister to them in that way. This is a place where people can come to fellowship with others and share their concerns."
There have been a few times when the Saturday meal conflicted with church activities but Braden said they have been able to work around those conflicts. She also noted that she is referring people to the food pantry offered by Faith Chapel each Tuesday and the free clothing store located downtown.
"We're all working together," she said.
A bread ministry which has been in existence since 2001 delivers free bread to the Kitchen of Hope each week.
"I've been helping my pastor at New Richmond Nazarene with this ministry for nine years," said Jack Snider of Bethel. "We deliver 175 trays of bread throughout the area to churches and food pantries. We cover areas from Over-the-Rhine, to Northern Kentucky and as Far East as Adams County. The route we take covers about 190 miles."
The two deliver about 2,600 loaves of bread each week.
"Those who are elderly, young, unemployed, underemployed, in a need of a hot meal, or just in need of fellowship and understanding, are invited to join us at the Kitchen of Hope each Saturday," said Braden. "I'm blessed to be able to do this."
The Kitchen of Hope is located at 402 West Plane Street, it is open each Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.