Editor's note: We are pleased to launch our new Co-op Cares special in partnership with the Southern Plains Co-op. Every second week, you'll find an articile on a local non-profit making a difference in the lives of people in the southeast. Our first Co-op Cares article is on the Warm Welcome Kitchen. Thanks to the co-op for their support.
Many in the Estevan area know THAT the Warm Welcome Kitchen provides hot, delicious and free meals twice a week for people in need.
But meals haven’t always been its focus.
Warm Welcome started in 2012 as a shelter, providing a place to stay for the homeless in the community during the winter months. Not only was it a refuge for those who couldn’t afford a place to live, but it was a needed service for those who came to the community to work but couldn’t find a home at a time when Estevan had no available rental properties.
But in the fall of 2017, Warm Welcome pivoted, and switched its shelter to a community kitchen, where people come to enjoy a hot meal and fellowship.
“When the shelter opened, Estevan needed a shelter,” said Warm Welcome Kitchen board chairperson Wendy Godfrey. “But when that need slowed down to nothing, and someone suggested doing these meals, I think it was a great move.”
They often attracted more than 50 people a week for the free meals. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Warm Welcome shifted again. Twice a week, they could pick up the ingredients for a good meal from the Estevan Salvation Army’s food bank, and take them home to prepare for supper.
Warm Welcome has modified its program this year. People pick up a prepared meal at Trinity Lutheran Church on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and take it home to enjoy.
“I think the average is around 60 (people each time). We’ve had as many as 70 people come out,” said Godfrey.
Early this season, they would get around 40 people a meal, but those numbers have been growing, and on March 4, they had 77. Godfrey is surprised with the number of people they have served each night.
It shows how much people appreciate the kitchen’s program.
“We’ve had some lovely comments, some thankful comments from people who are just so happy that they can have this outlet. Even though it’s a take-out meal, it is something you go out to get, and so you can have some socially distanced words at the door.”
People are also pleased to be able to stretch their food budget with one or two free meals a week, because money is tight for many due to COVID.
Christa Jorgenson is the cook for the shelter and continues to do an “amazing” job of preparing meals for clients, Godfrey said. But they have a backup cook for the first time in Donita Bjorndalen. Her support allows Warm Welcome to be open in the off chance that Jorgenson can’t be there for the night.
“In the past, if something happened that was unavoidable, we had to cancel meals, and that’s the reason we looked for someone who could do backup for us. We don’t want to ever cancel a meal if we could help it.”
St. Giles Anglican Church would traditionally be the other site for the kitchen, but St. Giles has stairs, and it’s a little easier for Warm Welcome volunteers to not have to run up and down stairs with the present format.
The Warm Welcome Kitchen is scheduled to wrap up for the season at the end of April.