The number of participants in our meal program continues to increase, and what a rewarding experience this has been. The meals at the Fairmount Community Center are catered three days each week, and on Thursday our experiment to cook “homemade” meals, to say the least, has been an overwhelming success.

The number of participants in our meal program continues to increase, and what a rewarding experience this has been. The meals at the Fairmount Community Center are catered three days each week, and on Thursday our experiment to cook “homemade” meals, to say the least, has been an overwhelming success.

Last Thursday our attendance was 115, an increase of more than 100 percent more meals served than on most of the other days. It is important to point out that the catered meals taste good and are nutritious, and we provide an ample serving. The meals cooked in house, however, are simply a cut above. You can taste the pride and caring that Fran Daniel, our center director, and her great crew put into the planning and preparation. These are ingredients the large, off-site commercial kitchens have not been able to duplicate; caring has a special taste that makes the difference.

Our plan to build our own commercial kitchen that will allow the meals to be prepared “in-house” is a commitment we are working to complete. Once we reach our goal, the meal costs will be reduced, but more importantly we can expand our service.

Late last spring we tried another experiment. While the children in our area were looking forward with great expectation to all the fun of summer vacation, we heard concerns from some parents. Many in our community can relate to their dilemma, while others may find it hard to believe. The harsh reality of our economy is parents were worried about school being out and the ability to feed their children. If a student attends summer school they eat lunch, but what about those not attending summer school?

NorthWest Communities Development Corporation, again under Fran’s leadership, developed a “Kids Café” in our basement area. New paint, some youth-friendly graphics and the area was turned into their own space. Our goal was simple: If your children are hungry, they need to eat and we would see that they receive lunch.

At times Fran would insist that Mom eat with their child even when the response to the offer was “it’s OK, I’m really not hungry.” Fran’s sixth sense about these things provides a much-needed service with Mom’s dignity still intact. The summer ended with the Kids Café serving more than 625 meals, and a commitment that we’ll do it again next summer.

We are always looking at how we can better serve this community. We now have plans, once the kitchen is complete, to open the Kids Café for dinner. I still have fond memories when I was growing up of going to the “Red Feather” Community Center in Kansas City. A special place that was safe, judgments weren’t made, and they showed they cared and you were important to them. Sometimes the old ways just don’t seem to go out of style.
 

 

If you go

Sample the Fairmount Community Center’s home cooking at its upcoming ham-and-beans or soup fundraiser. It’s from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 5. Tickets are $8 and include cornbread or crackers, dessert and beverage. Tickets are available at the door, or call the center at 816-252-5094. The center is at 217 S. Cedar Ave., Independence (the previous home of St. Ann’s School).