The Monett Community Kitchen has remained very active as summer weather settled in. According to Charlene Dart, co-director, the number of volunteers remains high and those served continue to come in significant numbers.
After 18 months of operation, the Community Kitchen has served a little over 25,000 meals. Dart said the average is 1,300 meals a month. Daily attendance bounces between 60 and 120, averaging out to around 100.
In the recent hot weather, attendance has been down slightly. Dart said fewer people have been riding in the bus provided by the First United Methodist Church, where the meals are served.
"In the last three or four months, I've seen a huge difference in those who are coming for meals," Dart said. "Of course we have our regulars, but there's a lot of new faces. People will come for a few weeks or a months, and then they're gone. They're replaced by other new people. That's really what we intended this for."
Most of the people who come for meals have part-time jobs or have recently been laid off and are looking for work. Dart said some say the meals help tide them over until they get their paycheck or the service helps supplement what they have.
"Often the people who come ask us why we're doing this," Dart said. "I tell them it's because we care. No one in the community should go hungry."
Volunteers have continued to support the service with their time. Dart said around 30 groups, from Sunday school classes and high school organizations to major civic clubs, continue to regularly staff the serving lines. A different leader with is in charge for each of the three days that meals are served to coordinate the operation.
"We have from seven to 12 volunteers at a time," Dart said. "Very seldom do we have one day where we don't have anyone signed up. We're had some new groups start helping in the last few months.
"The volunteers I hear from the most are the young people," Dart continued. "They absolutely love it. It makes them feel like they're doing something for the community. Once people are here and work, they understand what we're doing better. It's nothing for them to come back and say they want to do more."
During the growing season, the Community Kitchen receives support in the form of fresh produce from local gardeners. The Community Garden was started for another year on the church grounds and some of those working the 10 lots have contributed to the kitchen.
Monett Greenhouse donated 100 tomato plants that are being tended in the Community Garden by a church member. The produce is supporting both the Community Kitchen and Loaves and Fishes, the hot meal service that also operates out of the church.
In the last eight months, the Community Kitchen has also started its own food bank, run in conjunction with Crosslines. Dart has had people seeking assistance fill out a form and sign up through Crosslines. The service relieved some of the pressure on the Crosslines food pantry.
"If anyone would like to donate peanut butter, jelly, or macaroni and cheese, those staples are the first thing I run out of," Dart said.
The Community Kitchen has operated with little difficulty. Dart said her biggest surprise has been the ongoing maintenance issues in providing bus service.
"The support and service we're had has been great," Dart said. "You couldn't ask for more. This community is wonderful."
Meals are served at the First United Methodist Church, located at 1600 N. Central, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, contact Dart at 235-2364.