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Nourishing Hope: Community Kitchen serves as a beacon of support for those in need

Posted on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 at 2:33 pm

LACIE SILVA – Editor

Community members and volunteers, Cyndie and Scott Van Bavel, have taken charge of the Community Kitchen and are looking to meet the growing needs of the Sequatchie Valley.

Boxes of pantry items ready to be placed into vehicles

The Community Kitchen operates as a 501C3 nonprofit dedicated to charitable endeavors. Every month, typically on the last Saturday, the organization opens its doors to provide assistance to those in need. Blessing boxes, containing essential food items like canned fruits, vegetables, potatoes, bread, pasta, and rice, are distributed, with an average of 350+ boxes prepared and given out monthly. Additionally, the Community Kitchen prepares and distributes 600 to 700 hot meals each month, contributing to the support of nearly 1000 individuals and families. While 80% to 85% of these meals go to those visiting the Community Kitchen, volunteers play a crucial role in delivering meals to seniors and individuals without transportation in various communities, including Jasper, South Pittsburg, Whitwell, and others in the Sequatchie Valley. The volunteers demonstrate a commitment to service, treating everyone with respect and kindness, offering prayers upon request, and contributing to the facility’s maintenance throughout the month.

meals ready to be distributed to families in need

New Beginnings Church, located on Rebecca Lane, became actively involved in developing the Community Kitchen into its own nonprofit when concerned member, Cyndie, approached her pastor expressing a desire to do more for those facing hardship. Motivated by a personal experience that deeply touched her, Cyndie sought ways to assist those in need. The pastor connected the Van Bavels with Dave Barry at Cornerstone Ministries, despite their relatively short residence of just over two years in the area. Eager to contribute, they quickly reached out to offer assistance. Recognizing the need for volunteers in the kitchen and a leader to manage it, Cyndie and Scott possess considerable kitchen experience from previous jobs. Enthusiastically taking charge, they have been running the kitchen for nearly four months, actively collaborating with Cornerstone Ministries to support the community.

Volunteers preparing food for plates given out

The escalating need in the community, marked by job losses and economic challenges, has become increasingly evident. The rising costs of living and a perceived decline in governmental support have placed a heavier burden on local communities to bridge the gaps in assistance. Sadly, the current facilities, including a malfunctioning freezer, hinder the Community Kitchen’s ability to store and accept substantial food donations. Despite having a few chest freezers, the limited space prevents adequate storage for large contributions, resulting in the regrettable need to turn away potentially valuable donations.

To address this critical issue, the Community Kitchen is seeking assistance to raise $20,000 for a new walk-in freezer. This crucial addition would not only enable the acceptance of more donations but also enhance the organization’s capacity to aid a larger number of individuals and families each month. The appeal emphasizes that every donation, regardless of size, can make a meaningful impact, presenting various avenues for community members to contribute to this vital cause.

Volunteers bagging up to-go plates

The community receives considerable support from numerous volunteers, reflecting a collaborative effort to address its needs. Volunteers from various backgrounds, including the Seventh Day Adventist Church and New Beginnings, actively participate by assisting with tasks such as dishwashing. Approximately 30 or more volunteers, including individuals from different churches and the broader community, contribute their time and effort to the Community Kitchen. Those interested in volunteering can contact Teresa at the Community Kitchen to inquire about available opportunities, with reassurance that no one will be turned away. The overarching goal is to create a welcoming environment where individuals can find fulfillment in contributing to their community by generously volunteering their time.

The Kitchen’s next hot meal will be on December 16. For more information and questions please contact the Van Bavel Kitchen Managers at scott.vanbavel@gmail.com and follow on Facebook to keep up with the Kitchen and future events.

The Marion Tribune – December 14, 2023

To donate to the community kitchen and a new freezer you can scan the QR code above.