• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
4m 8s

Blind, but with a vision

By Hope Miller 9:25 PM January 28, 2014

For Elgin Jones, running Kids' Kitchen for more than 17 years has been a labor of love

ANCHORAGE - Elgin Jones, 73, is legally blind. He developed glaucoma a few years ago and his vision has been fading steadily since.

Faces and places have become fuzzy blurs, he said, but he can sense your presence in a room and can recognize your voice in a flash.

Jones has one vision, however, that’s clear. Eradicate child hunger.

His vision spawned from a dream in September 1996 when he said the Lord told him it would be his duty to make sure Anchorage kids didn’t go hungry.

Almost two million meals later, he said, it’s a responsibility he hasn’t taken lightly.

“They’ve given me a new lease on life,” Jones said of the kids. “I feel as though I have so many thousands of children. It’s awesome to deal with children. I can’t age because of that.”

Armed with his vision and a hodgepodge of helping hands, Jones has run Kids’ Kitchen in Anchorage for more than 17 years.

The location has changed over the years and so has his crew. The kids he’s helped have grown up and moved on.

“Some are college graduates, some are dead,” he said with a furrowed brow. “They’ve changed, they’ve grown. I have little kids now and they’ll be grown soon.”

These days, Jones works out of the Fairview Recreation Center weekday afternoons. He has a couple cooks to prepare the meals and people from the community help out when they can.

Anywhere from 40 to 60 kids usually attend, said cook Rodney Coffin, and the number increases toward the end of the month when parents’ paychecks start to dwindle.

On a Friday in mid-January, dozens of kids show up right on time, ready for a warm meal. The aroma of chicken teriyaki over rice hangs in the air as kids pile in, their shoes squeaking the floor.

People at the Fairview Recreation Center used words like “selfless,” “kind” and “fatherly” to describe Jones.

One of those people is Damien Francis, who said he has the utmost respect for Jones. The 31-year-old helps Jones with networking and social media, but knows the kids by name and stops to chat with them as they filter in.

Deatrice Swazer isn’t far behind Francis. Her son is 27 now, but he started coming to Kids’ Kitchen when he was 8.

“I don’t just see the kids,” she said, scanning the room. “I see my son.”

In 2014, Jones has his eyes on Tucson, Ariz., as the next destination to feed the children.

He’ll still tend to Anchorage’s youth and spend a large chunk of time in Alaska, he said, but doesn’t know of anything like Kids’ Kitchen in the desert city. And as a senior citizen, he’s craving sunshine, he said.

Before living in Anchorage, Jones lived in Tucson for 10 years. There he has already established contacts to talk about his vision. It’s also the place he began his social service ministry, he said. In the ‘80s, he used to pass out fruit and job applications in front of City Hall. He called it “Fruit for the Hungry.”

Back in Anchorage, there’s still a need for services like Kids’ Kitchen. According to the Anchorage School District, nearly 41 percent of students receive free or reduced-price meals, eligibility for which is based on household size, income level and Permanent Fund Dividend information.

In a 2010 report by the Food Bank of Alaska, about 77,200 people received emergency food from the food bank, with about 15,300 different people a week. In addition, 40 percent of household members served by the nonprofit were 18 years old or younger.

It’s statistics like this that Jones said keeps him going, but this line of work hasn’t always been easy. He relies primarily on donations “that way we’re not caught up in bureaucracy,” he said, which means money is sometimes tight.

But in 17 years, there’s always been food and he’s never had to turn the kids away.

“One time I was coming downtown … and there was no food, no money,” he said. “And I got a phone call that someone was gonna bring by some chili.”

Things tend to happen the way they’re supposed to, Jones said.

He has the people of Anchorage to thank for Kids’ Kitchen’s success, he said.

On that Friday in mid-January, a fourth grade teacher from Williwaw Elementary brought a $92 donation raised by her class and a group of kids from the Hillside offered their help serving food.

Jones, who said the kids give him a reason to wake up every morning, appreciates the outpouring of support.

And the kids seem to appreciate what Jones does.

“I like being here,” said 13-year-old Desmond David-Pitts, who’s been coming to Kids’ Kitchen since he was a toddler. “It’s like a second home.”

Latest Stories

  • News

    Conservation effort brings bison bulls to female herd

    by Associated Press on May 26, 7:52

    Four bison bulls are making their way toward an experimental mating herd established this spring near the far western Interior town of Shageluk. The Fairbanks Daily News Miner reports (http://bit.ly/1LCgJiK) the male wood bison from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Anchorage were loaded Saturday onto a barge headed down the Tanana and Yukon rivers […]

  • News

    Police: 1 dead in South Anchorage shooting

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 26, 6:46

    A shooting in South Anchorage late Monday night has left one man dead, authorities say. The shooting was reported shortly before 11:30 p.m. Monday on the 8300 block of Pokey Circle, according to the Anchorage Police Department. Multiple people — including neighbors and a person inside the home where the shooting occurred — contacted police, […]

  • Lifestyle

    First cruise ship of the season docks in Anchorage

    by Jacquie Slater on May 25, 23:35

    The first cruise ship of the 2015 season docked Monday in the Port of Anchorage. The ms Statendam is part of the Holland America Line and carries up to 1,260 passengers. For this first group of “cruisers,” their journey started on May 18 in Seattle. Anchorage was their sixth stop on their 14-day cruise. “We’ve been […]

  • Politics

    1 week until state employees receive potential layoff notices

    by Kate McPherson on May 25, 22:37

    In one week, some of Alaska’s state employees will receive notice of potential layoffs. It can be prevented, however, if Alaska lawmakers come to an agreement on the operating budget and how to fund it. “Nobody wants a government shutdown,” said Majority Leader Rep. Charisse Millett on Monday. ”We are working incredibly hard to make sure […]

  • News

    Mat-Su Veteran’s Highway wreaths pay tribute to fallen soldier, stepson

    by Shannon Ballard on May 25, 22:32

    You can tell just by looking at Tony Shelton and his wife Angela that they love their country. On Memorial Day, they made sure to wear red, white and blue. For five years now, the couple has spent Memorial Day weekend making patriotic wreaths and hanging them along the Mat-Su Veteran’s Highway. Shelton is a U.S. Air […]

  • News

    Anchorage police: No injuries in vehicle fire on Glenn Highway

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 25, 21:56

    The Anchorage Police Department is investigating a vehicle fire on the Glenn Highway that briefly closed inbound lanes. The fire was reported just before 10 p.m. and fully engulfed the vehicle. Police say all the occupants of the vehicle were able to exit the vehicle without injuries. All inbound lanes were diverted through the North […]

  • On-Air

    The Science of Sugar: What sugar may be doing to our bodies

    by Ivanhoe Newswire on May 25, 21:34

    Americans are consuming more sugar than ever before. But what effect is this sweet trend having on our health? Laura Schmidt, a professor at University of California San Francisco, says Americans consume nearly three times more sugar than is recommended. “Currently we’re consuming about twice as much as we did say in 1970,” she said. […]

  • Lifestyle

    The Sound of Freedom: AMGA’s Memorial Day Shootout

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 25, 19:20

    A group of Alaskans are remembering and honoring veterans by celebrating one of the freedoms they gave their lives for. The freedom to bear arms was largely exercised at the Alaska Machine Gun Association (AMGA) Memorial Day Shootout. Every year, gun enthusiasts gather in Anderson to engage their right to carry and shoot a firearm. […]