Enter the Community Kitchen on a cold dark winter night and walk into light and laughter amidst the delicious smell of whatever is on the menu for the evening. Trinity has helped with this community service of providing meals to people in need for many years and has a stock group of volunteers who assist in the kitchen twice a month.
LaVonne Welch oversees this group of Trinity volunteers and gets straight to work a little before 4 PM on the nights when Trinity is in the kitchen. She prepared fruit to go with the meals on this night, but she explained, “It depends on what they have. Fruit is a standard, but sometimes there are raw veggies as well.” Welch said that four or five Trinity members help each time Trinity is on the schedule. She has volunteered at the Community Kitchen for around four years and has been on the Service Cabinet at Trinity for seven years. Why does she choose this ministry for her time? “I get satisfaction from seeing all the people coming in for food,” she said.
Rich Murray was another Trinity volunteer this evening, and he added, “I just love helping people. My heart goes out to people who are homeless.” He went on to say that the Director of the Community Kitchen, Karen Handeland, said that 25% of the people who come to the Community Kitchen are indeed homeless. “We can all do ONE thing,” he said. “Just help one person, as Mother Teresa said, and it would be a different world!” He added, “It’s a small way to help, and I enjoy it. Just make someone’s day…right?!?”
Robin Bratvold had experience picking up meals from the Community Kitchen and delivering them to Clear Lake as a part of her Rotary Club volunteerism. She saw all the people lined up for food and thought she would like to be a part of helping them. “It’s just fun!” she said. Bratvold mentioned that there is quite a different way of doing things now after COVID with takeout meals being prepared instead of dishing up food as people walk through the line. Although takeout is the procedure these days, Bratvold very much appreciated talking to the clients a little more when she was able to. Marlene Freudenberg has helped for about a dozen years in the Community Kitchen, and besides the companionship, she also likes the people and likes to think she can help in some way. Freudenberg said, “The evenings get long when you live alone… If I can do something to help someone once in a while, I will!”
Wanda Wolf has helped for two years and said, “I needed to help do something! I don’t like sitting around!” Freudenberg jumped in, adding, “We get along really good—we don’t fight or anything!” Wolf smiled, used to the friendly banter, and replied, “I like meeting new people. We DO have a good time, and most of the people are so appreciative!”
Kristin Murray, Rich Murray’s daughter, was also helping on this cold winter night. It was her 2nd time helping since moving back here from the Cities. “I like feeding people, and I don’t have kids,” she explained. “I like talking to the people who come in.” Her “Thank you! Have a good night!” greetings made people smile…and THAT, along with a good meal, is the name of the game.
Along with Handeland, Director of the Community Kitchen, there are three other women who work either F/T or P/T, giving direction to the volunteers. Becky Higgins is the daytime kitchen coordinator who plans the meals and runs the kitchen. Diane Lease and Kathy Thomas, kitchen employees, stressed they “make it fun while still being busy!” They also love working with the volunteers and getting to know them. “We can always use more volunteers!” they said. “Just ask Karen [Handeland]!”
Handeland recently became Director. “I feel blessed to put all my efforts toward helping people. I’m lucky I have this opportunity!” said Handeland. She shared a few statistics, “We served 89,000 meals to over 1300 unduplicated people in a year. We’re up over double what we did pre-COVID.” A definite need exists…and continues to grow. “We don’t turn anyone away. If you’re hungry and need a meal, we’ll serve you.” She looked around at the flurry of activity in the kitchen, smiled, and said, “I love Trinity! They’re workhorses! I mean…look at them!”
Along with the need for food is the ever-present need for another set of hands. One thing is crucial…the ability to smile.†