A recent study by the Cortez First United Methodist Church found average attendance at Hope’s Kitchen, their on-site free meal center, to be 113 per day.
Mission committee co-chair Eleanor Kuhl said the soup kitchen project is approaching its 12th year, and continues to serve a growing need in the community.
“We don’t just serve the homeless,” she said. “We’re serving the unemployed, the underemployed, the elderly, children and families. We serve anybody who comes in. It is a broad spectrum.”
During the height of the recession in 2009-10 Hope’s Kitchen, located across from the Cortez Police Department, often served up to 165 people in a single day. The facility offers complete hot meals at noon on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Increasing demand has lead to a food-drive campaign to keep cupboards and freezers filled. In honor of the Denver Broncos, Hope’s Kitchen launched “SOUPer Bowl Sunday” to inspire the community to donate food and cash so the humanitarian mission can continue to keep up.
The soup kitchen especially needs large cans of corn, beans, diced tomatoes, and other tomato products.
“Please plan ahead when you are shopping between now and February 2 and pick up some large # 10 cans of vegetables that we need for our community meals,” Kuhl said. “We usually have the food drive within our church, so this time we thought we would open it up to the community focused around the Superbowl.”
So far $70 and 20 cans have been collected.
Cans may be delivered to Hampton Hall at the Methodist Church, 515 N. Park St., Cortez, Saturday Jan. 25 from 9-3, or on “SOUPer Bowl” Sunday, Feb. 2, from 8:30 am until noon. Please bring the cans to the south entrance.
Larry Gessner, manager of Hope Kitchen, urges volunteers to come forward as well.
“Soup kitchens are little prone to the one-day volunteer, and we appreciate that, but we also can always use volunteers with more commitment who are willing to go on the schedule,” he said.
In his third year, Gessner is seeing more demand for basic services in the community.
“I’d say 80 percent of our clientele are the working poor, individuals and families who cannot make it on low minimum wages,” he said. “We’re seeing more elderly folks because they can come in here and have their one big meal of the day, saving their fixed incomes to stretch out their food supplies at home.”
Organizers report generous donations from Wal-mart, City Market, and Safeway.
“We’ve got plenty of hams and turkeys thanks to local grocery stores, but our canned vegetables need replenishing,” Gessler said. “Really cash is also a good donation so we can continue the upkeep of the kitchen. We spend it on cleaning supplies, spices, equipment maintenance and upgrades.”
New volunteer cook Michael Dupui is proud to use his culinary skills to serve the community.
“I’m an RVer who works at Mesa Verde seasonally. I’m here for the winter with free time, so I decided to help out,” he said. “It is nice to see people enjoying our meals. They’re thankful and I enjoy cooking and meeting the people.”
An experienced cook, Dupui just served up Hungarian goulash, and is preparing chicken stew and homemade biscuits for an upcoming meal.
“If you know of any, we could use commercial-kitchen grade pots and pans, and good prepping knives as well,” he said.
Excess supplies and food at Hopes Kitchen are shared with The Bridge Emergency Shelter, WINGS Safehouse, and other social welfare agencies in the community.
“Everybody is grateful for these meals,” Kuhl said. “One thing we’ve been noticing is that attendance goes up toward the end of the month when people’s wages come up short, or when monthly Social Security benefits run out.”
If you prefer to send a monetary contribution instead of cans, please sent your check to Cortez First United Methodist Church, PO Box 1016, Cortez, CO 81321 and indicate on the memo line “Hopes Kitchen.” For questions, call 564-0708 or 565-7990.