• 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

  • Crime

    Man shot outside his Fairview home after going to investigate noise

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Apr 18, 10:27

    Anchorage police say a man was shot outside of his home in Fairview after he heard a noise and went to investigate. Just after 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the Anchorage Police Department received a call reporting that a man had been shot outside of a residence on the 1000 block of E. 13th Avenue. When police […]

  • News

    Anchorage reacts to Fish & Game’s plan to euthanize Government Hill bears

    by Shannon Ballard on Apr 18, 0:03

    An outcry is flooding social media after Government Hill residents learned the family of black bears eating garbage in their neighborhood would be killed. Alaska Department of Fish and Game says the bears’ deaths could have been prevented with proper trash care. Many others, however, say the bears shouldn’t be punished for human’s mistakes. Isn’t there […]

  • Sports

    NYO Games run smoothly thanks to numerous workers and volunteers

    by Jake Edmonds on Apr 17, 23:39

    Day two of the 2015 Native Youth Olympic Games was a success after four more events. Athletes competed in the Eskimo stick pull, the toe kick, the one-hand reach and the two-foot high kick. For volunteers who work behind the scenes, Friday was the busiest day, with Thursday and Saturday hosting just three events each. […]

  • News

    Hansen victim one step closer to being identified

    by Shannon Kemp on Apr 17, 22:53

    The DNA  of an unidentified victim of deceased serial killer Robert Hansen is now available for comparison with potential family members. Hansen led authorities to the body of a young woman at Horseshoe Lake in Palmer on April 25, 1984. Known as Jane Doe #3, or “Horseshoe Harriet”, she was buried at Anchorage Memorial Cemetery until […]

  • Weather

    Evening News Weather, April 17

    by KTVA Weather on Apr 17, 22:43

    Kenai Peninsula/Prince William Sound Increasing clouds with chance of showers on the Kenai with the heaviest and most steady rain on the eastern side of the peninsula and Prince William Sound. Snow levels are rather high. Southeast Rain showers will increase in the area overnight as some strong warm front push into the area. The […]

  • News

    Spenard Farmer’s Market set to reopen May 16

    by Dave Leval on Apr 17, 22:22

    The Spenard Farmer’s Market will open for business in May in the Chilkoot Charlie’s parking lot, in the same spot where it started five years ago. The new board of directors made the announcement Friday. The previous board canceled the event in February after members said they got burned out from it. Dozens of volunteers […]

  • News

    Alaska March unemployment rate stands at 6.5 percent

    by Associated Press on Apr 17, 20:54

    Alaska labor officials say the state’s unemployment rate in March was 6.5 percent, a slight increase over February’s rate of 6.3 percent. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development says the latest seasonally adjusted rate compares with the national rate of 5.5 percent. Last year, Alaska’s seasonably adjusted rate for March was 6.9 percent. […]

  • News

    Historic Motherlode Lodge left to burn in Hatcher Pass, considered suspicious

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Apr 17, 20:31

    The Motherlode lodge in Hatcher Pass was left to burn after catching fire Friday evening. Firefighters were on scene at the fire, but were only there to direct traffic away for public safety. Norm McDonald with the Alaska Division of Forestry says the building was outside any fire service area. McDonald said “it’s lucky” there […]