Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Charitable Superhero of the Week: Linda T. Funk with Warm Blessings Soup Kitchen

Volunteering is a full-time job for Linda Funk, who won't rest until everybody's been fed. 


Many people have seen the movie Elizabethtown, wherein Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst fall in love amongst the beauty that is small town Kentucky. Some of the culture shown in the movie is fairly accurate. But what the movie doesn't show is the struggling side of one of Kentucky's most beautiful, adored, small towns.

Like every town and city in the country, Elizabethtown is not without those who struggle financially to put food on the table. This week's Charitable Superhero has made it her full-time volunteer job to help every person in need in Elizabethtown get a hot meal every weekday. Warm Blessings Soup Kitchen goes beyond cooking. Their idea of serving includes meal delivery, friendship, and transportation to and from dinner each weeknight. When their trusty old van broke down recently, Mrs. Funk went on a PR tour of the community, spreading the word that many people would go without if the van wasn't replaced quickly. Her PR campaign worked well enough for Warm Blessings to put a sizable down payment on a new (used) van.

When interviewed for this article, Mrs. Funk didn't want the spotlight on herself. Here, she tells about the history and mission of Warm Blessings Soup Kitchen. It's a story to rival Orlando and Kirsten's movie romance tale.

Warm Blessings Shelter of Hope is a non- profit (501c3) organization. The founders, John and Kathleen Chadbourne who remained involved with the program until 2007, had the vision to offer meals to people in need and shelter to those in crisis. Through their efforts, the Ministry incorporated on October 23, 2005.
 The Kitchen opened on July 17, 2006, operating out of the basement of College Heights UMC in Elizabethtown KY. Hot meals were served three nights a week due to the need to work around activities at the Church. The first night only two patrons showed up. At the close of the year, 1,542 meals had been served. At the end of the first full year of operation 3,841 meals had been provided. On December 2009, after renovating the new site, the program moved to 609 E. Dixie Hwy. in Elizabethtown KY; and served the first meal in the new building on December 14, 2009. Almost immediately, the program added four nights weekly and several months later began serving every weeknight. On February 22, 2011, a mortgage was signed and deed received on this property and in June 2012, within 14 months, the mortgage was paid off.
 Warm Blessings continues to offer a hot meal weeknights to people struggling to stretch food dollars and to provide some comfort to those living marginally. Recent totals have been approximately 1400 meals served monthly. Our community has no public transportation other than a cab service, which charges $10.00 one way. In the past 6 months, 70 people who have no transportation or unreliable transportation have ridden the Warm Blessings van to the Kitchen. Between 18 and 26 people ride the van nightly. There are six van drivers and each night there are 8 to 10 volunteers serving and cleaning up. In a month, there are 24 people rotating in and out of the kitchen preparing the meal and a total of over 125 volunteers who team together to operate the program amounting to over 700 hours of volunteer time monthly.
 In September 2012, Warm Blessings added meal delivery on Mondays and Thursdays to seniors who are shut-in. There are currently 23 volunteers who deliver these meals to 36 seniors who live alone and are frail due to age or illness. Volunteers who deliver the meals also serve as a safety net for many seniors who have few others who check on them regularly. Other services include use of a washer and dryer by appointment, showers, food bags, as well as sleeping bags and mats as needed, and personal items are distributed regularly. For more information about Warm Blessings see Facebook, or visit www.warmblessingsinc.com.
 Two major fundraisers for the program are an Empty Bowls Lunch, which reminds people that some people’s bowls are “empty”, and Cardboard Nation, which is a sleep in a box event to raise funds and awareness to poverty and homelessness. Twenty percent of the patrons of Warm Blessings report being homeless within the past year.
 The Executive Director of Warm Blessings is Linda Funk. Linda has been involved with Warm Blessings as a Board member and volunteer since its inception in 2005, first participating as a social service representative and in 2007 as Treasurer. In late 2007, she was elected Board Chairperson at which time she began managing the program. She recruits volunteers, manages volunteer activities to include cooking, serving, clean up, van driving, food and supply shopping, building repairs, and coordinates all aspects of the program.  She has expanded the program by adding nights and implementing senior meal delivery.  Early on Linda acquired an old van for the program to allow pick up for those without reliable transportation and enjoyed getting better acquainted with patrons by driving one night a week for 2 1/2 years. She manages fundraising and organizes fundraisers, manages social media sites, radio and newspaper media promotion, and promotes the program through public speaking engagements. Through these efforts, the program renovated a new building, moved to the renovated site, paid off all debts and the mortgage giving Warm Blessings ownership of the new site. Through Linda’s leadership, the program has recently signed an agreement to purchased lots in the back of the property to expand what is now limited parking space and possibly other program growth.
According to Linda, she believes in the mission of Warm Blessings, to serve people living in poverty with compassion and dignity. She states the scripture Matthew 25:40 drives her, where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” As a reminder to volunteers and patrons at Warm Blessings, that doing for “the least of these” is like doing for Jesus, you will find this scripture painted on one of the walls at the Warm Blessings program.

You can help Warm Blessings continue to provide transportation service by supporting their online fundraiser. Elizabethtown is lucky to have this Charitable Superhero and all the Warm Blessings volunteers supporting the community.