The Ashland Community Kitchen is in the business of feeding people.
Director Desmond Barrett makes no qualifiers on that mission, but rather sees the mission as providing a need to anyone who has a need.
“We have a mission,” Barrett said. “And that mission is that no one goes hungry.”
The Kitchen has been in operation for more than 40 years, and in that time has touched an incalculable number of lives; not just through the meals they serve daily, but by providing hope to those who in many instances have no other recourse.
Even during the past week where weather conditions have all but crippled the state and many areas around the country, the Kitchen has been open, serving three meals per day to all those who need them.
“Even with businesses shutting down, we have kept open so we can keep feeding people,” Barrett said. Barrett said that it was important during times such as these to make certain that people can get warm and be fed, a condition that has become more crucial when so many are without electricity and heat.
“Fortunately, we have the resources, and we want to make those resources available to those who need them,” Barrett said. “And we are going to continue to fulfill our mission, even if it means traveling over these treacherous roads.”
Barrett said the area’s homeless population especially are at risk because the extreme weather and frigid temperatures are directly life-threatening to them.
“We started back up in the first week of January,” Barrett said. “And we are serving inside with all the proper protocols for safety concerning COVID-19. We frequently sanitize the tables. The tables themselves are a proper distance, and there is hand sanitizer available for everyone’s use. And the staff and volunteers all wear gloves and face coverings as well. Our goal has been to be as diligent as possible.”
Even when some suggested that it might be a good idea to close because of the weather, Barrett said that they were determined to stay open.
“Yesterday (Tuesday), for instance, we served three meals to close to 100 individuals. And today (Wednesday) staff showed up and prepared breakfast, and plan to serve lunch and dinner as well. I have a very dedicated staff,” Barrett said.
There were only two of the storm days they weren’t able to serve three meals, Barrett said. These were the severe days as each wave of storm hit.
Barrett said the Kitchen always does its best to not only be prepared, but to be prepared to be of service to other organizations as well.
“We reached out to the Salvation Army yesterday and told them that if they needed extra food, we could help with that. We reached out to the United Way and asked them to let us know if they heard of other agencies that needed our help,” Barrett said. “There is probably going to be some sort of task force made in the future for just this sort of thing.
“For instance, at the Boyd County Convention and Arts Center, they were getting calls for food, and we were an agency that could have helped. We could have made that food in a Health Department-approved kitchen, and brought that food to them,” Barrett said.
Added Barrett: “I think this is a learning event. We have seen the city and county get together during this to make plans to streamline the response process on everything from tree-cutting to those who serve the population in need.”
Barrett said that he believes area residents will come out of this weather emergency stronger than they went into it.
“Our Judge-Executive was even out there cutting trees himself, wading right in to help those who needed it.”
Barrett said it is that sort of cohesion, the combination of action and compassion, that brings a community together and will see it through the worst of times.