The Franciscan Kitchen, which has faithfully served lunch to the city’s homeless and hungry since 1980, needs a helping hand.
The soup kitchen, located at 748 S. Preston Street, feeds 500 or more people on weekdays, plus select Saturdays. Now its volunteers and staff members want to expand the ministry to serve lunch every Saturday.
In order to do that, said executive director Chuck Mattingly, the kitchen needs more volunteers and some financial assistance.
Though the kitchen has numerous faithful volunteers, more are still needed to fulfill the facility’s mission to nourish Louisville’s needy physically and spiritually.
“Our volunteers are the backbone of this organization. They always have been. Being Catholic, we are all taught to share the gifts we’ve been given,” Mattingly said. “What a wonderful place to exercise this belief in our Catholic faith.”
The ministry is in need of regular volunteers for the first and second Saturdays, Mattingly said. Volunteers are also needed on the fifth Saturday of September and December.
Currently, parishioners from Holy Family Church volunteer on the third Saturday of the month and students from Bellarmine University serve on the fourth Saturday. Parishioners from St. Louis Bertrand Church took part in the ministry on the fifth Saturday of the months of April and June.
During the school year, a number of schools send students to the kitchen each week. St. Margaret Mary School students volunteer on Tuesdays; St. Bernard School students come on Wednesday. Students from St. Anthony of Padua School in Clarkesville, Ind., volunteer on Thursdays. Mattingly said he would welcome other schools to take part on Monday or Fridays during the academic year.
“Volunteers do a variety of jobs from preparing vegetables to prepping the meal, anything from peeling potatoes and cutting onions,” he said.
Volunteers also sort through and categorize donated food, wash dishes, make drinks, mop floors, serve meals and talk with guests.
“It’s all part of the same mission,” Mattingly said. “When you leave here you, along with 25-30 other volunteers, have all done the mission in life you are called to do — to help your fellow man.”
In order to expand the kitchen’s offerings, Mattingly said, an increase in financial donations are desperately needed.
The kitchen receives a number of regular food donations which they utilize to supplement what they must purchase. But, local monetary donations have slowed down and now, Mattingly said, they need help meeting basic operating costs, such as LG&E and water expenses.
“If we can get a parish to sponsor even one month, that would help tremendously,” Mattingly, a parishioner of St. Augustine Church in Jeffersonville, Ind., said.
The Franciscan Kitchen pays approximately $1800 per month in LG&E costs and $300 for water.
Paige Kissel, a senior at Bellarmine University, began volunteering at the Franciscan Kitchen when she was a student at St. Bernard School. She then continued her service as a student at Mercy Academy.
Now as a college student, Kissel said, she comes as often as she can. She’s part of the regular Bellarmine group that volunteers on the fourth Saturday of the month. And, she comes with her family on the third Saturday of the month.
Kissel said she continues to spend a couple Saturdays a month at the kitchen because of the interactions with those she serves.
“Sometimes being able to put a smile on someone’s face can not only turn their day around but your own.
“I have been blessed in many ways with things that I sometimes take for granted and through serving at the kitchen I have learned that the most rewarding actions are selfless ones,” Kissel said.
The Franciscan Kitchen — formerly known as the Franciscan Shelter House — was founded in 1980 by Conventual Franciscan Friar Jim Fields. Brother Fields serve seven meals the first day on Jan. 5, 1980. Since that time, many thousands of meals have been lovingly prepared and served by the kitchen’s dedicated volunteers.
To learn more about the Franciscan Kitchen and ways to help, visit FranciscanKitchen.org.