New ‘OK Kitchen’ in Albion serves first meals to community

Photos by Tom Rivers: The service line at the new Orleans Koinonia Kitchen at Harvest Christian Fellowship serves tacos on Thursday evening in the first meal at the kitchen. Pictured from left include Kevin Howard of the Albion Lions Club, Peggy Francisco of Holy Family Parish, Dee Huntington of Harvest Christian Fellowship and Kelly Uderitz of the Medina Lions Club. Faith Smith, director of the kitchen, is in back.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 June 2022 at 10:40 am

ALBION – On Thursday a group of volunteers served nearly 200 taco meals at the new Orleans Koinonia Kitchen at Harvest Christian Fellowship.

That included 45 who ate at the dining hall and another 143 meals that were served to go.

Faith Smith and her husband Mike are shown with a tray of brownies in the new kitchen. They have volunteered preparing and serving meals at the community kitchen for 11 years. Mrs. Smith is director of the effort.

Mark Hartleben was pleased to see the kitchen open. He attended the meals for the Community Kitchen at Christ Church for about 20 years. He also helped as a volunteer at times.

“You see the community come together and I think that is important,” he said on Thursday.

He likes the friendly and accepting atmosphere at the kitchen. At the new site at Harvest, he noted the round tables which he said made it easier for conversation.

He sat with Jackie Henry, who said she has been coming to the kitchen for 12 to 15 years.

“The people are friendly and very nice,” she said.

Hartleben said he has been trying to spread the word to the community kitchen regulars about the new site, and also is encouraging others to give it a try.

“It’s a nice circle of people,” he said. “It’s social thing bringing people together.”

The community kitchen for many years operated out of Christ Episcopal Church. It has been closed there since December. Faith and Mike Smith ran the kitchen as volunteers for more than 11 years.

After a “miscommunication,” they now are running the new operation from Harvest Christian Fellowship on Route 31. That church recently completed an expansion with a new sanctuary. It turned its old sanctuary into a fellowship hall with a new kitchen.

It calls the space the Orleans Koinonia Kitchen. “Koinonia” is Greek for fellowship.

Faith Smith is grateful for the space and opportunity to keep serving meals to local residents. The kitchen will be on Thursday evenings from 4 to 5:30 p.m. instead of Fridays. She and her husband also will make deliveries closer to the downtown area for people who have transportation issues to the church on Route 31.

Mark Hartleben, left, was glad to be back at the community kitchen on Thursday. He said he looks forward to seeing so many people.

Smith is hopeful a transportation provider will step up to bring people to the church and then take them home or to a spot close to where they live.

She said Thursday was a good start for the Orleans Koinonia Kitchen – “the OK Kitchen.”

She is looking for organizations, agencies, churches and volunteers to help prepare the meals and serve the food. She is asking those groups to also purchase the food until the new kitchen can get a system in place for acquiring food. They also need more refrigerator and freezer space.

In the meantime, the OK Kitchen will provide the space and paper supplies – plates, utensils and napkins.

“This was a good start until we get the hang of things,” she said about the first day. “I know it will take some time until the word gets out.”

She said she is thankful for a donation of 260 pounds of ground beef for the first meal. That donation prompted her to offer tacos, which has long been a favorite at the community kitchen.

People interested in volunteering can sign up for a spot on the OK Kitchen website. There is contact information on that site to reach Smith for more information.