• 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

    Alaska Gov.-elect Bill Walker appoints law partner as attorney general

    by Rhonda McBride on Nov 27, 1:57

    On Monday, Dec. 1, Bill Walker will leave his private law practice behind to become governor of Alaska. But he won’t be leaving behind his longtime partner, Craig Richards, who will now serve as attorney general. Richards says he took the job because he believes the governor needs a good lawyer. “I was being a […]

  • News

    Thanksgiving travel tales from the Anchorage airport

    by Kate McPherson on Nov 26, 23:27

    Spending Thanksgiving with loved ones isn’t possible for everyone. But for others, taking a flight or two is all it takes to get the family together. At the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Wednesday night, 2-year-old Rachael waited patiently for her dad to come home from the North Slope. Her mom, Melissa Chapman, is happy that […]

  • News

    After power outage, Tuluksak families get turkey donation

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 26, 22:50

    Families that lost tons of meat after a power outage in Tuluksak will now have a turkey on the table for Thanksgiving. The community of nearly 400 went without electricity for an extended period of time following a power plant failure. Because of the warm temperatures, many people weren’t able to keep their subsistence meat frozen. […]

  • News

    ‘Tis the season: 800 Christmas lights on Government Hill

    by Heather Hintze on Nov 26, 22:11

    Residents riding around Anchorage may notice a familiar sight in Government Hill. The lights have been turned on at the Christmas Tree on the neighborhood’s cell tower — a day students at Government Hill Elementary School have been waiting for all year long. The students waited anxiously on the eve of Thanksgiving for the school’s […]

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, Nov. 26

    by KTVA Weather on Nov 26, 19:36

    Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound Skies will be partly sunny for Thanksgiving, but expect to wake up to early morning fog. Southeast Expect clouds to move out as clearing happens from the north to the south. Interior and North Slope In the Interior, skies will be mostly clear with temperatures dramatically cooling off. North […]

  • News

    Farmer’s market in Anchorage offers Thanksgiving alternatives to turkey

    by Lauren Maxwell on Nov 26, 19:29

    Alaskans who want to eat local this holiday season will find plenty to fill their holiday tables. That’s especially true if they are open to some alternatives for the main course. At the Center Market, a year-round farmer’s market inside the Sears Mall, shoppers could be found on the day before Thanksgiving picking up produce […]

  • News

    Anchorage students learn about the godmother of Thanksgiving

    by Alexis Fernandez on Nov 26, 19:23

    Food and family are two of the symbols most associated with Thanksgiving. On the eve of the national holiday, one group of local sixth-graders decided to dig a little deeper. Word-by-word, sixth-grade students at College Gate Elementary School relived history and learned about the past. They put together a presentation about well-known author Sarah Hale, known as […]

  • News

    Injured musher, dogs recovering after being struck by car in Willow

    by Shannon Ballard on Nov 26, 19:14

    Willow, Alaska is musher country, a place where residents joke that there are more dogs than people. Dog sled trails weave through the trees right up against the Parks Highway. Six-time Iditarod finisher Karin Hendrickson is familiar with the curve near mile marker 91. It’s where she and her sled dog team were stuck by […]