• 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

    State releases emails relating to National Guard complaints

    by Dave Leval on Oct 31, 22:31

    Piles of documents regarding allegations of sexual assault and misconduct within the Alaska National Guard were released Friday by the Alaska Department of Law. The first thing you notice about the hundreds of pages of documents is how much they do not say regarding the controversy. Just about every page has redacted information. They show […]

  • News

    Evening News weather, Oct. 31

    by Carlos Faura on Oct 31, 21:04

    Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound Expect increasing clouds with periods of snow and rain, especially on the coast. Southeast The panhandle will get a soaking tomorrow, with snow for high elevations. Interior/Slope The Interior will have mostly cloudy to partly cloudy skies with a flurry or two for northeastern areas. Slope areas will get […]

  • News

    You ate it, now negate it: Burning off Halloween candy calories

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 31, 19:53

    With trick-or-treating done for another year, many families have a massive stash of candy. Even the little fun-sized pieces can pack on the calories. Heather Poe, a registered dietician with the Alaska Club, said parents need to be mindful of the sugar as well. She took her two boys to a harvest festival instead of […]

  • Crime

    Man charged with pulling down telephone pole

    by Associated Press on Oct 31, 15:51

    A Fairbanks man suspected of shearing off a telephone pole when his truck pulled down an overhead wire has been issued a reckless driving summons. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1pb91pU) reports 58-year-old James Knopke on Sept. 12 was pulling a trailer behind a 7.5-ton military surplus vehicle, which had a 16-foot homemade boom attached to […]

  • News

    Federal agency releases Arctic drilling review

    by Associated Press on Oct 31, 14:21

    The federal agency overseeing offshore petroleum development has released a revised environmental review of drilling off Alaska’s northwest coast, and critics say it shows the risk is too great. Mike LeVine of Oceana says it’s the third time the government has tried to justify offering leases in the Chukchi Sea based on an unfair evaluation […]

  • Politics

    Campaign 2014: Byron Mallott

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 31, 13:30

    This week, KTVA is running a series of interviews with the main candidates for office. KTVA’s Rhonda McBride brings us interviews with the candidates for lieutenant governor, starting with Byron Mallott — who has worn a number of hats, from mayor of Juneau and Yakutat to director of the Permanent Fund Corporation. For Mallott, however, […]

  • News

    Virgin Galactic spaceship crashes in Calif.; 1 reported dead

    by CBS/AP on Oct 31, 12:28

    Last Updated Oct 31, 2014 4:18 PM EDT MOJAVE, Calif. – A Virgin Galactic space tourism rocket, the SpaceShipTwo, exploded and crashed Friday during a test flight, killing one person aboard and seriously injuring another, witnesses and officials said. Wreckage was spotted in Southern California’s Mojave Desert. The spacecraft was carrying a crew of two. The Kern […]

  • News

    Fatal crash closes Seward Highway near Girdwood

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 31, 11:37

    One person has died and another sustained serious injuries after a multiple-vehicle collision on the Seward Highway Friday, Alaska State Troopers say. The crash — which occurred just before 11 a.m. north of Girdwood near Mile 96 — closed traffic in both directions as first responders assisted the victims, said AST spokeswoman Megan Peters. Beth […]