The meal ministry at nonprofit organization Refuge of Hope serves hot meals seven times a week to the community, free of charge. This year, it will serve more than 92,000 meals from its kitchen at 405 Third Street NE in Canton.
I talked to JoAnn Carpenter, director of development at Refuge of Hope, about the free-meal program.
Q. What are the basics about Refuge of Hope and the meal ministry?
A. “Refuge of Hope is a shelter for homeless men and also a hot meal site. We started in 2009, taking what was a soup kitchen and creating a meal ministry with hot meals served in a banquet-style setting to people from the community who are homeless or nearly homeless and live in extreme poverty. We serve meals Monday through Friday at 4:30 and 5:30. We have to have a couple of seatings because the dining room only seats 100. We also serve lunch on Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m.”
Q. What is the dining experience like at Refuge of Hope?
A. “We have real silverware and flowers on the table. There is bread, maybe fruit and a salad. When our dinner guests—we call them that—walk in and are seated, they are offered a cup of coffee or another beverage. They are served full-course nutritious meals, with fruit, vegetable, starch, protein. We really go the extra mile to make sure the meal is balanced. And yes, there is dessert. You’ve got to have dessert. They are served everything until we ask them to bus their plates.”
Q. What was the menu for a recent meal you served?
A. On Labor Day, we had barbecued chicken, macaroni, mixed vegetables, a tossed salad and dessert. Our desserts vary, cake to pies to cookies, creamsticks and doughnuts. They come from a variety of different sources. Community Harvest is an excellent resource for us. We pick up desserts, bread and pastries from two Giant
Eagles every Saturday.”
Q. Between the free meals and serving the men in your shelter, you have a very busy kitchen operation. Who makes all this food?
A. “We have hundreds of volunteers who come in over the course of a week, from churches, civic organizations, all kinds of places. And we work with job and family services, mature services and the court systems. We have people assigned to us for community service. We train them about safety and working in a community kitchen.”
Q. You are a Christian ministry, correct?
A. “We’re a Christian organization, so we read Scriptures and pray with our guests and talk about the love of Jesus. But we give them something to eat first because they are hungry. We try to fill their basic need of hunger, their spiritual needs and the emotional need of belonging. We’ve created a family atmosphere where everyone feels welcome.”