Homeless feeding ministry in need of saving

Larry and Jane Dixon

Larry and Jane Dixon

Lead volunteers retiring after 16 years

On April 30, when Murray Hill United Methodist Church members Larry and Jane Dixon retire from the Kester Kitchen Feeding Ministry, hundreds of homeless in the Murray Hill community may find it hard to locate their next free meal.

After 16 years, the couple is retiring from their work serving Saturday lunch at the church and, as of now, no one has come forward to take over. “If anybody else wants to try and take over the kitchen, we’d be happy to show them what we do,” said Larry Dixon.

The church expects to shut down its kitchen ministry if no one comes forward. According to Dixon, a majority of the church’s members are elderly and cannot handle the commitment.

The number of homeless the ministry serves depends on the time of month, with a higher turnout toward the end of the month, Dixon said. Each week the kitchen plans to feed 200 people and keep serving until the food is gone.

In addition to serving the homeless, church and community volunteers deliver food to between 30 and 40 elderly people in need every Saturday.

“I really am praying that someone will step forward and continue it,” said Joe McVey, Murray Hill UMC member and long-time Kester Kitchen volunteer. McVey and his daughter, Cindy Pirner, often make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to go for the homeless.

Kester-Kitchen_04The feeding ministry is open to anyone who comes through the doors. Many are chronic homeless with no form of identification, so the Kester Kitchen is the only soup kitchen that welcomes them, Dixon said.

“We interact with them and it’s not a sterile situation, it’s a family situation,” said Dixon. Like a family, the Dixons eat with those they serve.

Ortega resident and Kester Kitchen volunteer Laddy Monahan said the Dixons build relationships with the homeless. “They [the homeless] are not just a number to them.”

With many repeat visitors, the Dixons have established relationships and witnessed success stories of the homeless finding jobs and homes. “It makes me and Jane feel good that we are doing a little something to help somebody and give back,” said Dixon. “We’ve had people go on to do many great things.”

A few homeless help in the kitchen on a regular basis and some plan to help cook the last meal.

Sixteen years ago, the ministry was formed out of church member Joe Rauch’s passion for helping the homeless. Rauch started by playing checkers with homeless people he met along Edgewood Avenue and later invited Dixon to join him. Rauch and Dixon eventually began bringing them food.

Originally called the Murray Hill Soup Kitchen, the ministry was renamed to honor Norma Kester, a church member who helped organize the ministry shortly before passing away. No stranger to adversity, the Kester Kitchen location bounced back and fourth between the church parking lot and funeral home parking lot across the street until it finally relocated to the church fellowship hall.

For the Kester Kitchen to stay alive, it needs new blood. Anyone interested in taking over may contact the Murray Hill UMC office at (904) 387-4406.


By Monica Gutos
Resident Community News

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