ASHLAND The Ashland Community Kitchen will be having an open dinner on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

Director Desmond Barrett said the dinner is open to anyone who is hungry.

“This year the Our Lady of Bellefonte Foundation has sponsored our dinner,” Dr. Barrett said. “And the dinner is open to anyone in our area who is hungry. Our mission is to turn away no one who is hungry, and needs a meal. The kitchen will be serving from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., and our goal is to feed everyone a couple of trays so that they are stuffed just like everyone else on Thanksgiving.”

Barrett said during the first hour of the meal a violinist and her student will be playing soft, classical music for the enjoyment of diners, and throughout the meal volunteers from Marathon (whose employees also donated turkeys for the meal), local school groups and members of the community at large will be serving the meals.

Thanksgiving, Barrett said, is an opportunity for members of the community to pause and take stock of the community around them. “

This goes beyond just our work communities, or our direct neighbors, or our church family,” Barrett said. “We need to look at the broader community, such as Ashland as a whole, and Boyd County, and even the entire FIVCO region.

“We need to reflect where everyone is at. Take for instance Armco (AK Steel) closing,” Barrett added. “We need to ask ourselves about how those families are doing.”

Barrett said it is crucial to see people, not as someone standing in line seeking shelter or a hot meal, but as fellow human beings who all have a story of how they came to be in need.

 “It is so easy to not see these people,” Barrett said. “They become invisible when we allow their need to separate them from us — but we need to see them as human beings and not labels.”

People slip off the track for a wide variety of reasons. Some have substance abuse issues, some have mental illness issues, and some, Barrett said, were simply the victims of bad choices or a bad break.

“We feed around 150 people every day, and each one of them has a reason for why they are here,” Barrett said. “But we are an agency that says we aren’t going to judge you; we are going to respect you. And we’re going to feed you a good meal.”

“My job is to feed you, physically,” Barrett said.  

The Ashland Community Kitchen, since being founded in 1983, has done just that. What began with founder Barbara Watson and a few of her friends giving bag lunches twice per week has become serving three meals a day to an average of 150 people — and the total number of meals served, Barnett said, is now more than half a million.

Barrett said anyone who wishes to help can donate, whether it is time, effort or resources. Anyone wishing to do so can come down to the kitchen or private message them through their Facebook page. And by coming together to help others, the community grows stronger, Barrett said.

“It doesn’t matter how different someone is,” Barrett said, “it’s our job to make sure there is always a place at the table.”

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