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Community comes together to cook for a cause

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Dash of Class food column by Nora Sweat

By Nora Sweat

Three weeks ago, at the invitation the Rev. Ellen Morell, last week’s One of Hardin County’s Finest Cooks, I visited Warm Blessings Soup Kitchen. I had read about this facility and the donations the organization has received, but I had no idea what I would find.

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The soup kitchen, now under the leadership of Executive Director Linda Funk, opened in 2006 at College Heights Methodist Church and only served three nights a week. Eventually, a second site was found. What was once Party Plus on East Dixie Avenue has been transformed after much work. The present facility opened Dec. 14, 2009, with the help of Habitat for Humanity, which remodeled the open space into a facility that serves our community so well.

The facility includes a commercial kitchen, a dining room with steam table and beverage station, a laundry area and an updated handicapped-accessible bathroom area complete with  an accessible shower. People can make an appointment to shower or wash clothing.

Recently, during a rainy period, a person who came in was soaked, as was his sleeping bag, Funk said. The volunteers gave him dry clothes while he changed and they laundered his clothes and his sleeping bag.

Volunteers serve 50 to 70 hot, nutritious meals at Warm Blessings a night and deliver the same menu items to 20 to 30 senior citizens twice a week.

I am sure many would have been as surprised as I was by the impact this facility makes on our community. It is  true, in our city there are people who are hungry, sleeping in cars or tents, under bridges and in motels by the week or month, as needed.

Not only is there a need from people who have lost jobs, are disabled and living in poverty, but also senior citizens who either are not able to prepare meals for themselves or are not able to shop for groceries. Lincoln Trail Area Development District makes recommendations for those who may have warm, nutritious meals from Warm Blessings delivered to them.

There are so many volunteers signed up to work and/or deliver meals there is a waiting list.

Warm Blessings could not operate if it were not for the help of the community in general with cash and food contributions.

One such incident happened while I was visiting. Someone had sent cash to buy Boost for a needy individual dealing with chemotherapy for cancer. Also, while I was there, a local church delivered two large sheet cakes left over from a Sunday event.

Funk and Morell spoke about the outpouring of help from churches, agencies and food establishments. Helmwood Nursing Home brought wrapped silverware ready for dinner. Residents at the nursing home work with volunteer coordinator Martha Frakes in assembly fashion each day on this project.

Several community restaurants help, too. While I was there, Pan era Bread delivered two large boxes of bread and rolls. Amazin’ Glazin’ Doughnuts delivered doughnuts, which are served for dessert on Monday nights. Texas Roadhouse delivers food for an entire meal on the third Monday of the month.

The Islamic Center donates 40 dozen eggs every other week, some of which are given to extended-stay motel residents because the rooms have hot plates and residents can prepare eggs for themselves or their families. It also donates chicken every Thursday which becomes an entrée that evening.

Hardin County First Interdenominational Church regularly supplies frequently used items for the kitchen and Blue Ball Baptist Church donates many of the items its volunteers cook on the first Thursday of each month.

Other businesses help with nonfood items. First Class Auto Care changes the oil of the delivery van for free and Berger Tires balances and rotates its tires at no cost.

Also, Funk is very proud Hardin County Health Department food service ratings have been 100 percent for the last year.

The night I visited, the menu was homemade beef stew served over white rice, tossed salad, corn bread, doughnuts and a decorated sheet cake. The meal was prepared by head cook, Morell, and her assistants, Etta Ridens and Tony Conklin.

If you have extra time, treasure or would like to make donations, call Funk at (270) 765-9276. You’ll be glad you did.

Nora Sweat, author of “Mama and Me,” is a native of Hardin County and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at norasweat@thenewsenterprise.com or by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.

Beef Stew
5 lbs. beef
5 lbs. potatoes
1 stalk celery
1 onion
2 bay leaves
2 15 ½-ounce cans carrots
1 bag beef gravy mix
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil the beef until tender (about 2 ½ hours). Boil the potatoes until soft (about 1 hour). Allow beef to cool, then cut into small pieces, being careful to discard the fat and bones. Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Chop the celery and the onions. Put into a large baking pan, cover the ingredients with the beef broth left over from boiling the beef and stir well. Sprinkle the mixture with the gravy mix and stir well again. Add salt and pepper and stir well again. Bake for 2 hours at 350 degrees. Serve over rice. If the stew is too thick, use some of the beef broth to thin it.

Serves approximately 10.
Source: Ellen Morell