Part of the mission of the Salvation Army is to feed hungry people.
For years, twice a week volunteers would load up hot meals into the organization’s mobile canteen, go out to set locations and serve food to anyone who showed up who needed or wanted a meal.
“Even through the pandemic we were out feeding people,” said Salvation Army Major Hank Harwell.
But then the mobile canteen unit had mechanical problems, and in December 2021 they put the meal outreach program on pause so they could devote their time and resources to their Christmas-related programs for the community, Harwell said.
“Our plan was to start up again in January, but the people who were going to do the cooking moved away,” he said.
He said they have plenty of food to make the meals, they have volunteers to do the prep work in the kitchen and volunteers to load the meals onto the canteen twice a week and volunteers to serve the meals.
But they don’t have a person who knows how to cook for 300-plus people and who is willing to volunteer three or four hours in the Salvation Army kitchen in Lecanto on Mondays.
And without a lead person, they’re at a standstill.
“Actually, we’d like several people so it’s not all on one person,” Harwell said. “I think that’s what happened to us in the past, people get burned out. Even once a week gets to be a lot.”
Harwell said he thinks a retired school cafeteria cook would be ideal.
“We’ve had great volunteers in the past, and we’ve appreciated them and loved them,” Harwell said. “We don’t want to have all our eggs in one basket; that’s why we’re hoping several people will see this story in the paper and give us a call.”
As they’ve done in the past, on Mondays the kitchen crew comes in for about three or four hours to do the cooking.
The building is open from 8:30 or 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., so the kitchen crew can do their cooking anytime within those hours, Harwell said.
After everything comes out of the oven it’s put into the refrigerator until serving days, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
On those days, a Salvation Army staff person puts the pans of food that need to be reheated into the ovens and then around 3:30 p.m. everything is loaded into the canteen.
On Tuesdays, the canteen goes to Daystar in Crystal River, and on Wednesday to the Lions Club in Homosassa.
They try to be on location and ready to serve at 5 p.m.
“We feed not only homeless people, but families who are just trying to make their budgets work and seniors living on a fixed income,” Harwell said.
No questions asked, other than “How many meals do you need today?” No registration or advanced sign up.
They serve until they run out of food or everyone is fed.
Harwell said, when they were still doing this, they served about 150 meals at each location.
“It’s a great program, but it’s frustrating for us because we know how much people appreciated it, and we’ve had people asking about it,” he said.
He said they’re even getting a brand-new, custom-built canteen, thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Citrus County Hospital Board.
For those who are interested in this volunteer position, or any other volunteer opportunity, call the Salvation Army at 352-513-4960 or 352-461-9580. Email: hank.harwell@uss. salvationarmy.org.
The Salvation Army is at 712 S. School Ave, Lecanto.