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Helen’s Kitchen to provide free, hot meals to those in need

Nourishment for the body and soul are on the menu at Helen’s Kitchen.

Free, hot meals will be served the first Tuesday of every month, the first one on Tuesday, Aug. 2 at St. Peter’s Catholic Church  in Park Rapids from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The new non-profit organization is the brainchild of Susan Bearden, Marie Hass and Rachel Creager.

"We all three had it on our hearts to have a soup kitchen and Jesus Christ brought us all together," says Bearden. "We all three have our strengths and weaknesses."

Similar to Peter’s Table – a free community meal served at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on the third Tuesday of each month – Helen’s Kitchen will dish up hot, nutritious suppers. In addition, Helen’s Kitchen volunteers will provide referrals to support services.

"We just want to give people that are lonely and families that are down-and-out a place to go and connect," Creager said.

"It’s the relationships," Bearden said.

"It’s our secret mission," agreed Creager.

Helen’s Kitchen is named after Helen Peterson, a longtime Park Rapids resident and founder of Third Street Market.

"She has the spirit of what we want Helen’s Kitchen to be," explained Bearden.

"She has a spirit of giving," Creager said.

Bearden, Hass and Creager began the project less than a year ago. Since about March, they’ve steadily established Helen’s Kitchen as a 501(c) organization, completing bylaws, articles of incorporation and other legalities.

About a dozen volunteers from several local churches are currently involved.

Hass said she was surprised by the level of poverty and homelessness in Park Rapids. Some people have language barriers, jail records or generational poverty, yet there are opportunities for them.

The soup kitchen’s ultimate goal is to establish relationships with impoverished people in the Park Rapids area and direct them to services, such as counseling, job skills programs or financial advice.

"You cannot help people at all until you have a friendship with them and build trust," Bearden said. "We’re here for the long haul. It’s going to take time."

Creager explained that a lot of volunteers will be sitting and visiting with guests during the meal. "We can connect them with resources. Between all the volunteers, we know a lot of people in town."

They anticipate 50 to 100 people to regularly attend Helen’s Kitchen.

"Our intent is to have it weekly," Creager noted, but they are currently looking for another location.

"To me, Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’ He doesn’t say, ‘Feed them if they’re drug-free and have a job,’" Bearden said.

Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks, such as bookkeeping, cooking, serving, public relations or fundraising. Those interested in helping can email Bearden can answer general questions and accept donations. Her phone number is 903-724-5606. Donations may also be mailed to Helen’s Kitchen, P.O. Box 291, Park Rapids.