ESTEVAN - The Warm Welcome Kitchen has had its largest crowds ever in recent weeks, and so it has made the decision to extend its season.
Wendy Godfrey, who is the chairwoman of the kitchen committee, said they decided to stay open for the month of May, rather than close for the season at the end of April, which is customary.
“We had enough money, because of course money comes into the decision,” said Godfrey. “You have to have to be able to afford to make the meals. We had enough money, and our cooks were in agreement that they would like to keep cooking for one more month.”
The kitchen has been averaging close to 90 people per meal, with 93 served on their busiest night. They are surprised with the recent surge in guests.
“During the winter months, we sat at around 70 … and between 65 and 75 for all of our meals. Now all of a sudden they jumped up,” she said. “It could be because of the nice weather. People are able to walk to get meals where they didn’t have transportation. In the winter, it’s harder to do all that.”
They were prepared for the influx in patrons.
“Our cooks are just amazing, for one thing,” said Godfrey. “They always cook just a little bit more than they think we need. When they see that … if a ton of people are coming in right at the beginning of the meal, they can often throw in something.”
It means they might prepare something different from the meal they expected at the start of the night, but Godfrey said they can quickly prepare something with hamburger, even if it’s frozen.
“Nobody has been turned away and nobody is going hungry,” said Godfrey.
The meals are currently being served at St. Giles Anglican Church. Warm Welcome has continued to offer take-out meals rather than having the sit-down suppers they have offered in the past.
“Although we are now allowed to do sit-down meals, we decided to do take-out meals for the remainder of this season, and with any luck at all, we will be having sit-down meals come the fall,” said Godfrey.
Amanda Leigh is the current kitchen co-ordinator, and is doing a “fantastic job”, Godfrey said. Leigh is always looking for new recipes and trying something different to create a good variety of meals.
Leigh is the daughter of Christina Farquhar, who is the former kitchen co-ordinator. Farquhar and other volunteers are always willing to help out.
Meals such as stir fries, lasagna and spaghetti have proven popular. Beef dishes have also been a staple.
“She gets the meat and then tries to find something creative to do with it, the meat being the most costly thing,” said Godfrey.
The kitchen committee decided the end of May was the best time to wrap up their season. They thought the season had to end eventually, and Leigh needs time off because she also has a full-time job. Volunteers also need a break.
Godfrey noted the kitchen has launched a grocery dash fundraiser. Tickets are available for $10 each, and the winner will get a two-minute shopping dash in Sobeys and put whatever they want in their cart, up to $1,000. There will be some restrictions.
There will also be secondary prizes of $500 and $250 gift cards, and a beautiful hand-crafted blanket made by Marlene Culbertson. Tickets will be available until May 30, and the draw will be made at their final meal of the season May 31.