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Feeding hot meals to the hungry Hope’s Kitchen’s mission

Parish has served 28,000 meals over the past 10 years

Published: March 16, 2023   
Alesia Schaefer
Sue Erb (right), a volunteer for Hope's Kitchen ministry at St. Mary Parish in Siloam Springs, helps prepare meals to be distributed March 3. Hope's Kitchen is celebrating 10 years of serving meals in the community.

SILOAM SPRINGS — It is rare to find an organization that gives so generously and runs solely on the generosity of others. That may explain why Hope’s Kitchen, a ministry at St. Mary Church in Siloam Springs, has thrived for 10 years now.

Not your ordinary food pantry, Hope’s Kitchen (Help Other People Enjoy) takes it a step further by preparing and distributing home-style meals to anyone, no explanation necessary. Without judgment, these volunteers come together twice a month, every first and third Friday, to give away freshly prepared meals.

Hope’s Kitchen helpers gather the day before to food prep and cook whatever they can before serving the meal the following day. They arrive as early as 8 a.m. the day the lunch is served to finish preparations for at least 250 meals that will be delivered curbside from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Marie Rollins, founder of Hope’s Kitchen, said she began the ministry because it was needed in her community and because Christians are called to feed the hungry.

Since Good Friday, March 29, 2013, when Hope’s Kitchen served its first 51 meals family-style in the parish hall, the need and the meals served each year has increased. In 2017, they began serving two meals a month instead of one.

Because of COVID, they stopped serving inside the parish hall from March to October 2020. When the ministry resumed, food was only delivered curbside and has continued with serving only to-go meals..

“We have served over 28,000 meals,” Rollins said. “The Lord has blessed us and we are financially stable.” Currently, Hope’s Kitchen is the only location in Siloam Springs serving a warm meal. Rollins credits the generous spirit of donors and volunteers with keeping the kitchen operational. Food items are donated by local businesses and parishioners. Those donations determine the menu, she said.

“We have 20 volunteers that have been here since we began,” she added. “There are a lot of unsung heroes who pick up donations and supplies and do a lot of running around to have the necessary items ready for the meals.”

One business owner who was served a meal, Rollins recalled, came back months later to buy food for the ministry in order to give back what he had received.

The generosity of Rollins and her husband, Chyle Rollins, who is both president of the parish council and a volunteer at Hope’s Kitchen, has not gone unnoticed. Last fall, they were nominated by the Knights of Columbus Divine Mercy Council and received the “Family of the Year” award at the state convention.

The parish has also been instrumental in helping Hope’s Kitchen grow by assisting them upgrade the kitchen so the ministry could pass Health Department codes and be certified as a restaurant to serve food. Rollins recalled that several “angels” in the community stepped forward to donate $12,000 to upgrade the kitchen.

Parishioner Judy Blank, a 10-year volunteer, said the ministry has grown by “leaps and bounds.”

“I know a lot of the people who come, personally, and they always brag about the food and ask us to pray for them,” Blank said.

The menus include home-style meals and desserts, such as cheese enchiladas, Lenten meatless meals such as spaghetti with marinara sauce, Thanksgiving turkey with all of the trimmings, and Easter ham with hash brown casserole, green beans and cake. The fan-favorite lunch that always brings the crowd is meatloaf.

“When meatloaf is on the menu,” Rollins said, “we always serve more meals.” (Get the recipe.)

Rollins said the goal is to make people feel comfortable and to feel like family.

“We want them to receive love and know someone cares,” she said. “When we think about the number of meals we have served in 10 years, we just hope to do it for another 10 years.”

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