Chance encounter keeps Kids Kitchen dishing out hot meals
After serving over one million free hot meals to kids since 1996, Kids Kitchen nearly closed its doors. Members of the community heard the kitchen's cry for help and rallied to keep the nonprofit afloat.
Elgin "Grandpa" Jones started the Kids Kitchen in the Mountain View area in 1996.
"I had a dream one Friday night," Jones said. "In the dream, I felt that God called me and said, 'feed the children.' I said, 'what do you mean feed the children? I need to be fed.'"
Jones woke up from the dream with tears streaming down his face.
"I was crying about what to do," Jones said. "I realized it was a call to feed children. I didn't know that children needed that much help. Then, I found out that they did."
Jones' Kids Kitchen started in a recreation center in Mountain View in its first year and moved to the Fairview Rec Center the following year, where it's been ever since. Kids 5 to 18 come to the kitchen, sign their name and age and get a free hot meal.
Funding is provided by the community, as well as a few grants here and there. This year, the insurance policy had to be altered to include more insurance, and most of Jones' funding went to the new insurance policy, leaving him with nothing left over to provide meals for the kids.
"Just a few days ago, we didn't have any hope of any new money coming in," Jones said. "We had a problem with some numbers and we just didn't have it."
Earlier this week, Jones had a chance encounter with Sharon Jackson, who stopped by the kitchen to see how it helps the community. Jackson, who is currently running for lieutenant governor as a Republican, shared what she heard with friend Keira Dreher, an associate mortgage broker with Keller Williams.
"Elgin told Sharon that they had run out of food," Dreher said. "Their cupboards were literally empty to feed the kids. So Sharon was making some calls asking people what they could do to help."
Dreher reached out to her Keller Williams community, and within 48 hours, the group of realtors came up with $4,100 for Elgin.
"In all, we raised over $13,000," Dreher said. "In that number, there are matching donations. Keller Williams raised $4,100 and First Rate Financial matched that. Then Tim Hyel, who was up here teaching a class and after hearing about Kids Kitchen, he also matched. I presented Elgin with a pile of cash and some big checks."
By 3 p.m. Wednesday, $13,000 of the $15,000 Jones needed after paying his insurance, was replenished. On Thursday, Dar Walden and her team of realtors bought a large amount of food and donated it to help Jones get through the week.
"Without all these people, we would've had some serious problems getting food," Jones said. "I said, 'Thank you, Jesus.' That was my reaction. I was happy."
Kids Kitchen is open Monday through Friday and located at the Fairview Rec Center located at 1121 E. 10th Ave. in Anchorage.
Kids Kitchen used to serve breakfast and lunch and now is relegated to serving dinner only from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jones says they can use all the donations and volunteers they can get. For information on how to help, click here.
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