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Need for community meals doesn’t slow down around the holidays

Orion Kobet, of Butler, said he found out about Katie’s Kitchen from the Grapevine Center. He said he has been coming for six months. Kobet said he plans to spend Christmas with family. Irina Bucur/Butler Eagle

The need doesn’t change because it’s the holiday season. Some neighbors in the county just don’t have enough food to make it through the month.

“Tonight, I just didn’t have a lot to cook at home,” said Orion Kobet, a Butler resident who made his way to Katie’s Kitchen on a recent Thursday evening.

Standing in line at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, he joined families, couples, residents from a nearby personal care home, and some folks who didn’t have a home to call their own.

There, on West Jefferson Street, Katie’s Kitchen volunteers serve free packages of food from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursdays.

This year, between the end of July and September, Katie’s Kitchen averaged about 253 meals a week — over 100 meals a week more than last year, according to manager Justine Brown.

“(Diners) have to make decisions and choices between eating and paying their utility bills, eating or paying for their medicine, having food on the table or buying gifts for their children,” Brown said.

The rise in food prices, reduction in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and cuts in government funds post-pandemic have contributed to the increased need of free community meals, Brown said.

The concern about food stamps running out before the end of each month was echoed by some patrons standing in line.

Kobet said he learned about Katie’s Kitchen from the Grapevine Center, another local nonprofit that helps residents in need. He has been visiting Katie’s Kitchen for six months.

“The food’s really good,” said Kobet, who doesn’t have a car and lives down the road from the downtown church. “Yeah, it’s convenient. And I mean, it’s really a blessing to be able to have these dinners.”

John Dunmyre and his wife, Tiffany, have been coming to Katie’s Kitchen for several months. They said they found out about the free meal distribution after walking by it one day. Katie's Kitchen serves Butler residents at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on West Jefferson Street. Irina Bucur/Butler Eagle

John Dunmyre, a Butler resident, and his wife, Tiffany, have been coming to Katie’s Kitchen for several months.

“Normally by the middle quarter to the end of the month, we’re kind of scraping by,“ Tiffany Dunmyre said.

The Dunmyres, who also don’t have a car, found out about the free meal distribution after walking by it one day.

“There’s a lot of people out there that need this,” John Dunmyre said.

His wife said some people don’t have jobs. “It’s really nice that (Katie’s Kitchen) can go out of their way and help people in need,” she said.

To make ends meet toward the end of the month, the Dunmyres said they will eat at a relative’s house or visit the food bank.

For Christmas, John Dunmyre said they will have dinner with his brother’s family. The plan is weather-dependent: If a blizzard hits on Christmas Day, or if it’s too cold to walk, they said they will likely stay in. They are looking forward to the visit.

“We all really get together usually just around the holidays,” Tiffany Dunmyre said. “Everybody has like their own family and jobs and kids.”

Brown noted that the spirit of giving, a hallmark of Christmas, brings some additional support.

“People are more generous to the needy during Christmas and during the holidays,” she said. “A lot of times, they’re forgotten during the rest of the year.”

Brown said people should remember that picture-perfect holidays are just that: picture-perfect.

“Life is messy,” Brown said. “It’s not perfect, and there are only a few people living that kind of life. There are an awful lot of people out there that might feel that they don’t measure up to those ideals, and that’s hard. Especially for kids to see other kids get all of these toys, and they’re lucky to just have one.”

Most important, she said, is to be a good neighbor all year round.

“I think people need to be more aware of their neighbors,” she said “and see what needs their neighbors have, whether physical needs or emotional needs, and just be more aware of their neighbors, I think, in general, and be aware of the people around them.”

Where to stay warm


Glade Run Lutheran Services operates an overnight warming center at Grace Wellness Center, 123 E. Diamond St., from Oct. 30 to Mar. 31.

Hours are from 10 p.m. until 8 a.m. seven days a week.

Vouchers are required for entry and can be obtained from Catholic Charities at 724-287-4011 or the Center for Community Resources at 1-800-292-3866.

Where to find free community meals


Every day of the week various nonprofit organizations around downtown Butler provide free nutritional meals to people in need. Lunches are provided on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and some Sundays. Dinners, which are served “takeout style,” are served Monday through Saturday and the last Sunday of the month.

Lunch

Monday, Wednesday and Friday

TIME: 11 a.m. to noon

LOCATION: Salvation Army Open Door Feeding Program, 313 W. Cunningham St.

CONTACT: 724-287-5532

First, fourth and fifth Sunday

TIME: 11 a.m. to noon

LOCATION: Saint Andrews United Presbyterian Church, 201 E. Jefferson St.

CONTACT: 724-287-4777

Dinner

Monday

TIME: 5 to 6 p.m.

LOCATION: First English Lutheran Church, 241 N. Main St.

CONTACT: 724-283-2378

Tuesday

TIME: 5 to 6 p.m.

LOCATION: St. Paul Roman Catholic, 128 N. McKean St.

CONTACT: 724-283-2378

Wednesday

TIME: 5 to 6 p.m.

LOCATION: Saint Andrews United Presbyterian Church, 201 E. Jefferson St.

CONTACT: 724-287-4777

Thursday

TIME: 5 to 6 p.m.

LOCATION: St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 201 W. Jefferson St.

CONTACT: 724-287-6741

Friday

TIME: 5 to 6 p.m.

LOCATION: First United Methodist Church, 215 N. McKean St.

CONTACT: 724-283-6160

Saturday

TIME: 5 to 6 p.m.

LOCATION: New Beginnings Free Methodist Church, 416 Center Ave.

CONTACT: 724-285-6560

Last Sunday of the month

TIME: 5 to 6 p.m.

LOCATION: St. Peter’s Anglican Church, 218 E. Jefferson St.

CONTACT: 724-287-1869

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