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The community kitchen truly serves

The community kitchen has been serving Roswell's hungry since 1982. Today they feed about 100 people per day, Monday through Friday and about a third that many on Saturday and Sunday.Johnny Lynch and Santana Lopez worked the serving line Monday, feeding the homeless and those in need. (Curtis Michaels photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Roswell’s Community Kitchen truly is a community effort. Brad Ussery, the manager has been working with the organization for years.

“The community kitchen started in 1982,” Ussery said. “Jeanne Kunko and Raye Duran started it. I started with Community Kitchen about six years ago. A friend of mine was on the board, Matt Hinkle. I had just moved back from Albuquerque. The lady that was running the place walked out, it was about the end of June. All the drains were backed up. A freezer full of meat had been sitting out for a couple of days, there was blood everywhere. I told them I could stay three months max and I’m still here.”
The president of the board, Bill Cooper, expressed his appreciation for all the help they get.
“Our fiscal year is October 31,” Cooper said. “We try to get a complete financial report out about that time. The only way we can thrive is through donations.”
According to their financial report, available at First United Methodist Church, the participating organizations are: Assumption Church, Calvary Chapel, Christ’s Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – Wards 1,2 & 3, First United Methodist, First Presbyterian, Grace Community, Immanuel Lutheran, St. Andrew’s Episcopal, St. Francis of Assisi, SFO, St. Mark’s Lutheran, St. Peter’s Catholic, Sauder-Miller & Associates, The Liberty, Trinity United Methodist and Westminster Presbyterian. New Life Church has recently joined this list. There is room for more volunteers.
They provide a hot lunch Monday through Friday and sandwiches on Saturday and Sunday. Cooper said they stay busy.
“We averaged 98 lunches on weekdays for the month of May,” Cooper said. “For the weekends in May we average 36 people per lunch. We serve sandwiches from 12:30 to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It takes me an hour from the time I leave my house, get here, serve the sandwiches, lock up and get back home. It’s very humbling to give a sandwich to a hungry man. You receive the greatest blessing.”
After 35 years serving out of the basement of St. Peter’s Church, the community kitchen is now preparing to open its own place next door.
“We felt, as a board, that we needed to do a few things and our lease at St. Peter’s left us limited as to what we could do,” Cooper said. “Money was left to us in an estate and we decided that that money was meant to feed and grow God’s kingdom.
“So we started looking at various ways we could do this including, of course, a bright, shining, new kitchen. We needed to attract more donations. We started looking and a friend of mine is a Realtor, we asked him about the old Saavedra’s building and he said it was priced in the low six digits. Well, we didn’t have that kind of money, but my friend said, ‘It’s been on the market for three years now, make an offer.’ Well I had to take it to my board and we researched it with David and Mike Hubbard, who are builders. We asked them what it would take to put in a professional kitchen. With that information, we knew what we could offer. It was accepted.”
As often happens when people follow their faith, donations started coming in right on time.
“We’ve had a number of donations for the new place,” Cooper said. “Hubbards are donating some labor and materials. One gentleman committed $3,100 of a $6,200 stove and oven. We have a number of commitments from people in the community. We run on faith and prayer.”
They still have goals to reach, and they aren’t shy about asking for the help they need.
“We’ll probably have to buy some new coolers and we would like to have chairs and tables that are easy to clean,” Cooper said. “We’ve had a number of people in town who don’t serve here, step up and donate good money in November and December.”
They’re hoping to be in the new building before the holiday season, but Cooper knows who’s in charge.
“This is all on God’s timing,” Cooper said. “He’ll have us there when he wants us there. Currently I expect to be there in under 100 days.”
Among the costs of running the organization is a small payroll.
“We have a very light payroll,” Cooper said. “We pay a dishwasher and a girl who helps Brad.”
It’s private donations, churches and businesses that have kept the community kitchen thriving, but Cooper knows who inspires them all. He also appreciates their openness to being inspired.
“I don’t think there’s anything in the world that will stop this,” Cooper said. “It’s God’s thing and he sees to it. If I have missed mentioning any volunteers, I am sorry and I hope they’ll let me know. There’s no way in the world that this place could open without all the people who volunteer.”
To help the Community Kitchen call 623-1926 or mail them at P.O. Box 3010. You can also find them on Facebook.
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.