Ari, a student at Portage Northern High School, loves the bacon wrapped water chestnuts her grandma makes every Thanksgiving. However this year, it will be just her immediate family celebrating due to COVID-19, and she will not be seeing one of her favorite dishes from her grandma.
Ari and her mother are just two of the many people in the Kalamazoo area who showed up to the Wesley Foundation on WMU’s campus for Broncos Kitchen’s free Thanksgiving dinner, hosted in conjunction with its parent charity: God’s Kitchen.
God’s Kitchen is a soup kitchen located in Battle Creek which was founded in 2010 by pastor William Stein when he realized there was no soup kitchen that served five nights a week and that homeless encampments required you to stay there to eat.
In 2017, Stein began serving in Kalamazoo after conducting research on if there was a need for the charity in the area.
“Sadly, I was informed by census data that 74% of the citizens that live in the Douglas Community lived in poverty,” Stein said. “I was livid when I read that statistic. So, my organization decided that we would establish ourselves in the heart of that neighborhood.”
Nov. 15, God’s Kitchen had met the deadline to receive donations for their annual Thanksgiving dinner and did not reach their goal. Due to a lack of funds, they thought they would have to cancel the 10th annual Thanksgiving dinner.
However, after word broke about the lack of funds, the charity received an influx of donations from all-around the community, as well as help from Meijer.
So, Wednesday 5 to 6 p.m., Stein joined the parent charity God’s Kitchen and the student aimed charity Broncos Kitchen to serve a free Thanksgiving dinner for both students and the general public, with students being made first priority.
With the help of donations from the community and the many WMU student volunteers, Stein was able to cook enough food for 300 people and serve food insecure students, international students, low income families and others.
The meal included turkey or tofurkey, potatoes, green beans, corn, dessert and more. Along with all of the food, they also provided a bottle of water and utensils.
Stein did most of the cooking and prepping of the food at Wesley Foundation, but still sent some food back to the Douglas Community to serve there and to be delivered to two different local homeless encampments.
“I love this ministry,” Stein said. “I am blessed to meet new souls from all socioeconomic backgrounds on a daily basis. It motivates me to get my behind out of bed because I know that when these folks lay their heads down at night that they have a hearty, nutritious meal in their bellies.”
For more information on God’s Kitchen, visit https://www.godskitchenofmichigan.org/