August 27, 2013
"Sandwich Saturday," the first of many planned local picnics held by the Knox Prairie Community Kitchen as a means to expand its benefit to the Galesburg community, was a resounding success, as approximately 200 citizens converged on Kiwanis Park on Saturday afternoon to take in not only the free lunch of kabobs and vegetables, but also to bask in the fellowship that always accompanies a Knox Prairie Community Kitchen event.
"Today is about branching out and doing this free lunch. We've always wanted to do more than our two dinners, so we've been experimenting - looking at Saturday during lunch. Having it at a different time and at various locations within the community will hopefully allows us to reach more people and create more fellowship," said Rosie Worthen, president of the Knox Prairie Community Kitchen.
Worthen's story is somewhat similar to that of the people she has now dedicated herself and her organization to feeding. Coming from a low-income household in Montana, Worthen's family often relied on the aid of neighbors to get by when times were tough.
"Without my community growing up, I wouldn't be where I am today, and I want to give others the same opportunity I received," said the Knox College alumna, who chose to remain in Galesburg and dedicate herself to the cause of hunger and food insecurity following graduation. "This is an opportunity for the community to come together from all walks of life. Anyone can come in and get a free meal, get involved and become a part of this community. People are capable of doing amazing things, but they have certain barriers placed before them, so I want to help people overcome these barriers the way others helped me. That's become my life's mission."
The goal of "Sandwich Saturday," which will follow a revolving location schedule, never remaining in the same neighborhood two weeks in a row, is to reach people in need who may not have adequate transportation or are unable to attend the free meals regularly held at Central Congregational Church for any number of reasons.
"What we do is more than just serving meals. It is also networking, and we try to incorporate more educational activities and bring in more educational groups. It is all about building a community. For such a small community like Galesburg, there are a lot of amazing things going on, but a lot of people may not necessarily know about them," said Worthen as she managed the luncheon with only six volunteers and five board members present. This is a drastic difference from the usual 30 to 40 volunteers who help serve the group's twice-monthly dinners.
"Galesburg is my new home. Because of the work I did with Lunch Spot and all the amazing people I met, I decided to stay around. Hunger and food insecurity has become my battle. All the other systems can fail, but as long as we have our community to fall back on, everything will be fine."
Having attended most every meal since the group was founded two years ago, Summer Pulse feels compelled to take advantage of such a beneficial community organization.
"These are the most friendliest people I've ever met. We have eight people in my family, and these meals come in handy a lot. My kids love them, but it also teaches them how to give instead of just to take. The pleasure of seeing everyone out here smile is the best part for me," said Pulse as she was greeted by dozens of people before making her way to her seat. "Any time you can get a free meal it certainly helps, but this also has a big influence on everybody. If someone comes here and sees everyone smiling, it can make a huge difference in their lives. We look forward to these dinners. If they ever went away, it would be a very bad thing for the community. Everybody comes together. There is no arguing or fighting. Everyone is just happy and satisfied."
More about the founding of Knox Prairie Community Kitchen in Knox magazine, and more photos below by the Knox College Office of Communications Photo Corps