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Community Kitchen Ministers to Neighborhood

posted on August 15, 2014, under Church by

by Gladys Neigel

Week after week, Kress Memorial Church members who prepare and serve food also enjoy visiting with the patrons. Volunteering on a recent Wednesday were: Karen Austin, Mike Sylvia, Nola Anderson, Pete Anderson, Frances Hamilton, June Clarke, and Pastor Eric Doran. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Week after week, Kress Memorial Church members who prepare and serve food also enjoy visiting with the patrons. Volunteering on a recent Wednesday were: Karen Austin, Mike Sylvia, Nola Anderson, Pete Anderson, Frances Hamilton, June Clarke, and Pastor Eric Doran. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Eric Doran, pastor of Kress Memorial Church in Winter Park, was sitting in his office one afternoon when a senior member of his congregation stopped to visit. After a few minutes, she handed him an envelope and said, “I want to give a thank offering to God.”

Opening the envelope, Doran was completely surprised to find a check for $1,000. Knowing the woman and her husband were on a fixed income, he quickly inquired how they wanted the money used. She replied, “Wherever it’s needed.”

In previous pastorates, Doran helped with a Community Kitchen. So, once again, this ministry came to mind. During church the next Sabbath, he asked for those interested in this type of outreach to meet in his office after the service. He was pleasantly surprised to find more than a dozen members waiting for him.

Word soon reached church neighbors that the Community Kitchen would be open from 5:00-6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. A neighbor across the street, Helen Wright, began attending the dinners from the start.

Helen shared an apartment with her sister-in-law, Janet Atkins, who also attended the dinners. However, eight months later, Janet was hospitalized and then passed away. With no other church home to call for assistance, Pastor Doran made the funeral arrangements. Kress Memorial paid for funeral expenses, hosted the memorial service, and provided a meal for family members and guests.

When asked what they learned about Jesus at Orlando Junior Academy, Jimmie, left, said he learned the power of prayer, Jerome said he got a new Hero in Jesus, and Iesha said she learned to go to Jesus when she needs Him. (Photo: Martin Butler)

When asked what they learned about Jesus at Orlando Junior Academy, Jimmie, left, said he learned the power of prayer, Jerome said he got a new Hero in Jesus, and Iesha said she learned to go to Jesus when she needs Him. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Afterward, more family members began attending the Wednesday night dinners. They also started attending church and usually filled up an entire pew. Helen, the matriarch of the family, was baptized on October 9, 2010, during meetings by Lester Pratt, Florida Conference evangelist. Nine months later, November 5, 2011, Helen’s three grandchildren, Jerome, Iesha, and Jimmie Boatwright, were baptized as a result of their desire to walk with God.

Kress Memorial Church involved the children in Pathfinders where they met many new friends. They also loved participating in scripture reading during the worship hour. The services are broadcast online, so their uncle in another state tuned in to see them participate. The children also enjoy serving others at the Community Kitchen because they’ve come to appreciate the blessings they’ve received.

The three grade schoolers enrolled at Orlando Junior Academy where Jimmie and Jerome played the handbells and Iesha sang in the choir. They enjoyed the close friendships and respect they found at the school. In May 2014, Jimmie became a proud 8th grade graduate.

When a couple at the Kitchen asked Pastor Eric Doran to sign a marriage license, he offered to do more. The following week, their wedding was conducted in the sanctuary where Community Kitchen patrons doubled as the guests. Kress members provided flowers, the cake, a photographer, decorations, and a reception in the fellowship hall. (Photo: Sandra Doran)

When a couple at the Kitchen asked Pastor Eric Doran to sign a marriage license, he offered to do more. The following week, their wedding was conducted in the sanctuary where Community Kitchen patrons doubled as the guests. Kress members provided flowers, the cake, a photographer, decorations, and a reception in the fellowship hall. (Photo: Sandra Doran)

The community dinners still take place every week, hosted by the same group of willing servants of the Lord. They not only prepare and serve the food, but also mingle with the people, eat with them, and listen to their needs. They have also conducted several funerals and two weddings, providing everything from spiritual guidance to full ceremonies and receptions.

On one occasion, local Adventist Russ Durham, who operates a bike ministry, came to the Kitchen and performed bike repairs for a dozen excited patrons. He later returned with a refurbished bike for a homeless man after someone had stolen his wheels.

Attendance at the dinners runs between 25 and 35. The volunteers cover the dinner’s entire cost, so nothing comes out of the church budget. The guests have the opportunity to take home any leftover food.

What started with seed money—a sacrificial thank offering from a godly couple—is a full grown ministry today. It touches lives not only in the neighborhood surrounding the church, but those who are serving in the Kitchen.

“It’s amazing,” remarked one member. “When I pass the homeless on the street now, they are not just lost faces in the crowd. I know these people by name. I care about them.”


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