The Community Kitchen is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. For the past 25 years, local volunteers, donors, and staff of Western Theological Seminary (WTS) & Community Action House (CAH) have worked side-by-side to provide the Community Kitchen, a place for local people to receive free meals in a safe and welcoming environment year-round.
The Community Kitchen is housed at the seminary and serves over 75,000 meals per year, providing about 1,000 volunteer hours. Over the past quarter century, CAH estimates that over 750,000 meals have been served, and over 130,000 hours of volunteer service provided.
The Kitchen was founded in the early 1990’s when severe cuts to funding for government needs-based assistance created a hunger problem for many Holland families. A seminary class called “Gospel, Culture, and Ministry,” in which the Holland Sentinel was a class text, inspired students and professors to connect with CAH staff and local city churches to help solve the problem. Today, the Community Kitchen continues to operate through those original partnerships.
According to Dr. Tom Boogaart, one of the founders of the Kitchen and professor at WTS, the Community Kitchen has turned out to be better and far more important than anyone imagined. “It created the geography for organizations to connect, serve, and form a real community,” he shared.
“We’re extremely grateful to be part of this community work,” said Mark Tucker, Executive Director of Community Action House, “with over 25 churches involved for 25 years, all working seamlessly together to provide for those in need.” Hundreds of volunteers from local churches make each day happen—from food prep, donation delivery, to dishwashing and greeting.
Earl Laman, one of the Kitchen’s longest serving volunteers, joined efforts at the Kitchen just after its founding in September 1991 and remains active, representing Hope Church. Many churches donate food along with their time, taking special offerings during the year to help shore up the Kitchen’s non-perishable food stores, which help provide complete nutrition when donations slow down.
Challenges at the Kitchen include limited freezer and refrigerator space, and meeting the need of an ever-growing number of patrons. “We’re serving 150-250 meals every day – space is always tight,” said Jim Piersma, Kitchen Manager.
WTS is currently taking donations for a $15 million capital campaign to perform building renovations that will include an updated Community Kitchen. The Seminary remains committed to the Kitchen and hopes the renovations will allow it to serve more people than ever before.
“Our school and our students have been transformed over the past quarter of a century by hosting the Community Kitchen,” WTS President Timothy Brown said. “I am extremely grateful that we get to participate in this vital mission.”
To celebrate service and accomplishment of the past 25 years, Community Action House will feature a presentation about the Community Kitchen during its annual Appreciation Banquet, held at Windmill Island on September 29th.
“This place has been a huge blessing to me and my family over the years,” said one patron. “We are so grateful for the warm welcome from Community Action House and the Seminary.
The public, as always, is invited to enjoy a meal in community for lunch during the week and breakfast on weekends at 101 E 13th St.
To make a financial donation in support of the Community Kitchen, volunteer, or provide supplies, please contact Community Action House, 345 W 14th St., Holland, MI, (616) 392 2368.