by Bev Newbold
Our church has hosted a very successful soup lunch for many years. It attracts many people from surrounding communities, most of them senior citizens who enjoy the once a month opportunity to see friends and enjoy bowls of homemade soup and bread. The soup and desserts are donated by members of the church. Since it is on the second Friday of the month and in the middle of the day, families with children are not a presence at the lunch.
Based on the popularity of the lunch, several members of the church, including the pastor at that time, thought a meal in the evening might be a way to offer parents and their children a time of fellowship together, enjoying a home-cooked meal and conversation. Many families were running in every direction, trying to keep up with all the activities in which their children participated, that sitting down together for a meal with all present was often difficult. The church members decided that a meal offered once a month in the evening might give these families that chance to relax together.
The first things to consider were how it would be funded and who would plan and cook the meals. Menus and cooking would be worked out once the financial concerns were addressed. Many ideas were suggested but it was the desire of all those involved that this meal be a free meal, designed to connect families with other families in like situations.
A church committee was formed to address those needs as well as how the program would be promoted. In our case, the committee included the pastor, two elders, a deacon, the church secretary, someone to work on funding and advertising, and one or two members of the congregation. The meals would be simple ones like soup and sandwiches, tacos, chili, baked potato bars, and could easily be funded through the church’s activity fund. Flyers announcing the meal were distributed throughout the community at the post office, library, local grocery store and handed out at church to be given to others.
It was October 2012, the second Tuesday night of the month, and the first Soup and Sandwich Night for Families attracted thirty-nine family members. The meal was served from 5 PM until 7 PM, with families arriving however that timeline fit their schedules. Some nights many stayed to visit with one another, and other nights families were leaving as soon as they had eaten their meals. Several wanted to make donations as a thank-you for the meals. We knew, however, that donations were going to be different each time and could not be relied on to fund the cost of food. At that time, we were spending approximately one hundred dollars for a meal.
After the first meal, we found attendance at each meal varied, as well as the cost of the meals and the freewill donations. We also discovered that other people were asking about the meals, especially senior citizens who lived alone and older couples. It was decided by those involved in the program that there was obviously a need for this meal in the community. We needed to seek better funding to accommodate an increase in attendance.
The committee member in charge of funding and advertising wrote a grant application in January 2013 to the Ashtabula Foundation requesting assistance to help us financially be able to offer the program to the community. There were many things to be considered in the application and one was the need for a better name for the program. We became “Break Bread With Us”. In February 2013, we received $1000.00 from the Foundation. The money was to be used for the purchase of only the food, and we continued to purchase paper products from our Activity fund.
The committee realized that the kinds of meals served might be more nourishing if meat, potatoes and vegetables were served, which meant more planning, calculating quantities and costs, as well as more time spent preparing the meals. Fortunately for us, one of the committee members was willing to do the menu planning and calculations, as well as most of the cooking with volunteer help. In March 2013, we served Chicken and Biscuits with Green Beans to approximately seventy people.
As our attendance in 2013 increased, not only people in Kingsville, but also Ashtabula and Conneaut, came to the meals, which remained free although donations were accepted. Donations were used to buy staple products such as disposable cups, plates and napkins. Later we added carry out containers as people who could not stay to eat would request meals to take home. By the end of 2013, we had used all of our grant money and fed over 400 people. We served no meals over the summer months June through August.
In January 2014, we again submitted a grant application to the Ashtabula Foundation with information about our program and its growth, and its need for our area. In March 2014, the Ashtabula Foundation give us $3500 with $3150 to cover food expenses and $350 for paper products. It was enough to financially fund the program for two more years. During this time period,
We discovered that the name we had chosen was creating some confusion among people. Some thought “Break Bread With Us” was a communion meal. As a church, we did not want to discourage the general public from coming to the meals, thinking that it must be a church function for members. Even though we had flyers and other publicity posted that invited all to come, it was decided once again that we should change the name, and thus “The Kings Kitchen” began a new journey.
Our 2014 grant enabled our program to serve over 800 meals before we had used all of it by the end of 2015. We were so thankful to the Foundation for its generosity to our church, and felt that God had blessed this program to survive.In July of 2015, the Ashtabula County Cluster of Presbyterian churches gifted us with $1500, and we also had received $1200 in private donations. In December 2015, we decided to send the $213 freewill offering we received at that meal to the Salvation Army to help with their Christmas expenses for families. None of the freewill offerings were put back into the Kings Kitchen but instead deposited in our Activity Fund which served many needs of the church.
Since 2016, we have been blessed by many more private donations to fund the program, and have not applied to the Ashtabula Foundation for more grants. We are serving meals like meatloaf, chicken and biscuits, scalloped potatoes and ham, roast beef with mashed potatoes, and roasted chicken breasts. All meals include vegetables, bread, ice cream and drinks. One of our members bakes delicious brownies, and another makes pumpkin muffins from homegrown pumpkins. We are now serving 860 meals in a 9-month period. Meals begin in October and end in June each year, and are served 5 pm until 6:30 pm. We welcome anyone to dine with us in Christian fellowship.
We give thanks to God for His many blessings and hope that we can continue to bless all those we serve.