In 1983, members from local churches saw a need within our community. Together they provided a plan to create St. Albans’ first “Soup Kitchen” that would serve one hot meal a day.
A letter was sent to area churches seeking support for a mission to “alleviate the hunger associated with unemployment and federal human services cuts.” In addition to area churches, the project involved Community Action, the Anti-Poverty Agency, and the Mayor’s Commission on the Disadvantaged.
Despite the project being greeted with much skepticism about whether it was needed, the Kitchen found its home located on the first floor of the St. Albans House on Lake St. It opened its doors on Monday, January 23, 1984, receiving support – both solicited and unsolicited – from area businesses and organizations. The Kitchen served its first warm meal of beef stew, baked beans, macaroni salad, cake, and a beverage.
It was a slow start, with an average of ten people a day for the first week. Numbers were low during the following weeks and it was believed that “a lot of people had fear of going to a soup kitchen, admitting that they may need a hot meal.” However, by the end of the first month numbers were up to an average of 78 diners per week. Within the first year of operation, over 6,000 meals provided nourishment to our community.
The “Soup Kitchen” was tested for several months at a time to monitor the need and practicality of being able to maintain the mission. Over time, the support increased with the help of more churches and families. In addition to warm meals, there was a need for fellowship. “It is interesting to note the changes among the people being served from the time we first opened. At first, people tended to sit by themselves, withdrawn, and perhaps embarrassed. Now they join together at a table, visit, laugh and enjoy the fellowship of each other’s company.”
In the Words of Madonna M. Vernal, the first Coordinator of Martha’s;
“To our friends that are served, I, along with all the others at the Kitchen, want to say thanks for being so considerate to abide by the rules, for your ‘thank you’s,’ politeness and signs of gratitude. We at Martha’s Kitchen are blessed to know you.”
The Meaning Behind Our Name
Our namesake is derived from the Gospel of Luke 10: 38-42, where sisters Martha and Mary opened their home to provide rest and nourishment for their friend Jesus:
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Though the name holds true to Martha, in addition to cooking and serving meals, we strive to maintain the legacy of both sisters through “Ministry of Presence” where we seek to foster a place of hospitality for all who seek a safe space to rest and receive nourishment.