St. Mary’s Parish celebrates five years with God’s Kitchen

VOLUNTEERING: Volunteers throughout the community help out at St. Mary's Parish every Tuesday to provide a hot meal for those in need. The meal is provided by God's Kitchen, an organization sponsored by Catholic Charities based in Grand Rapids. (Pioneer photo/Katlyn Vuillemot)

VOLUNTEERING: Volunteers throughout the community help out at St. Mary’s Parish every Tuesday to provide a hot meal for those in need. The meal is provided by God’s Kitchen, an organization sponsored by Catholic Charities based in Grand Rapids. (Pioneer photo/Katlyn Vuillemot)

BIG RAPIDS — The chatter of happy customers filled the room as friends and family from the community enjoyed a hot meal provided by God’s Kitchen.

Community members came together Tuesday at St. Mary’s Catholic Parish to enjoy a free meal and friendly environment as volunteers worked to serve those in need.

Jan. 27 marked five years St. Mary’s has participated in God’s Kitchen.

Every Tuesday, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., St. Mary’s, located at 1009 Marion Ave., provides a free meal to anyone interested.

“The parish provides food for not just those in need, but anyone who wants to come in for a free meal,” said Joe Spedowski, coordinator of God’s Kitchen at St. Mary’s. “It’s also a good place to have a conversation and interact as you eat.”

Since 2010 when God’s Kitchen began at St. Mary’s, close to 27,000 meals have been provided for families in need.

In 2010, then Father Lam Le from St. Mary’s learned about God’s Kitchen and wanted to bring it to the to the church.

“I then went to the different masses and presented the idea and asked for volunteers,” Spedowski said. “We ended up having over 200 people who were interested in volunteering to help out at God’s Kitchen.”

Volunteers for God’s Kitchen rotate throughout the month.

“We have volunteers from all over, not just from St. Mary’s,” Spedowski said. “Volunteers do everything from pick up the food to serve on Tuesdays.”

Mackenzie Gillum, a volunteer for God’s Kitchen, has participated in the event four times.

“It’s important to give back to those who aren’t as fortunate,” Gillum said. “I enjoy volunteering here because the people are really nice and it’s always good to get to know new people.”

The meal is donated to St. Mary’s by an organization called Catholic Charities of West Michigan. Catholic Charities has a program called God’s Kitchen that works with organizations to provide food for those in need.

A driver from St. Mary’s travels down to Grand Rapids, where Catholic Charities is located, and picks up the food for the meal that night.

Each Tuesday, St. Mary’s picks up 100 meals from Catholic Charities. They provide God’s Kitchen with a salad and an entree. The meal varies each week.

St. Mary’s provides the remainder of the meal, such as condiments, bread, desserts and beverages as well as the paper products for customers to eat from. To do this, St. Mary’s collects donations from the church community and Big Rapids community members.

After the event each Tuesday, volunteers drop off any extra food to Women’s Information Services, (WISE).

“All the food we get is used either by us or by WISE,” Spedowski said.

DONATIONS: Bernie's Place has been a huge help to God's Kitchen at St. Mary's Parish. In the past five years, Bernie's Place has donated close to 37,000 doughnuts and 1,040 loaves of bread. (Pioneer photo/Katlyn Vuillemot)

DONATIONS: Bernie’s Place has been a huge help to God’s Kitchen at St. Mary’s Parish. In the past five years, Bernie’s Place has donated close to 37,000 doughnuts and 1,040 loaves of bread. (Pioneer photo/Katlyn Vuillemot)

Bernie’s Place has donated to God’s Kitchen ever since the program began five years ago.

Bernie Jackson, owner of Bernie’s Place, has donated close to 37,000 doughnuts and 1,040 loaves of bread to God’s Kitchen.

“It’s important to give back to the community,” Jackson said. “Donating doughnuts and bread really benefits a lot of people who may not normally have access to it.”

Bernie’s Place has been the largest contributor to God’s Kitchen, giving doughnuts and bread every Tuesday.

“Bernie has been a great help,” Spedowski said. “Walmart provided a gift card for $100 when God’s Kitchen first began, and it really helped. Besides that, our program runs on donations from the community.”

Volunteers for St. Mary’s also pick up food for St. Michael’s Catholic Parish in Remus, which participates in God’s Kitchen to provide a free meal for those in need on Tuesdays.

“This is a free meal for anyone interested, no questions asked,” Spedowski said. “We aren’t focusing on religion or promoting faith on others. It’s a community-based event for anyone who wants to come.”

Those interested in donating, volunteering or have any further questions can contact St. Mary’s Parish at (231) 796-5202.

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Posted by Katlyn Vuillemot

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