The History of the Kitchen Community Ministry Team

Wed, Feb 21, 2018

After 16 years, First Church member Judy Norberg is stepping down as the coordinator of the Kitchen Community Ministry Team. The team has worked quietly and consistently providing meals for homeless youth at YEAH! and the organizations that preceded it. First Church has had a long association with YEAH! over the years, contributing to it financially and with volunteers, and Judy and the team have played a large role in that relationship.

Judy and the team will be honored at a special event on Thursday, March 8 sponsored by YEAH! and its affiliate organization Covenant House. Wilson Hoffman will be taking over the coordination role for the Team going forward.

Judy provides a history of the team here:

To see what one person can do to make a difference, we can look to First Church member Frances Townes. Her persistent concern for homeless youth who filled Berkeley streets led her to co-found the Ecumenical Chaplaincy for Homeless Youth, a daytime drop-in center. Also a member of the Ministry of Outreach, Mission and Service, she advocated for a new ministry team to focus on homeless needs. So the Kitchen Community Ministry Team (KCMT) came to be.

Beginning in 2002, KCMT prepared/served hot lunches for the Chaplaincy youth, with additional on-site dinner preps for the Berkeley Food & Housing men’s and women’s shelters and prepared Thanksgiving food boxes. While building community within FCCB, we established a steady connection with key community agencies.

In 2006, YEAH! opened, providing a much-needed overnight winter youth shelter. KCMT prepared tasty, nutritious monthly dinners and delivered them to YEAH! Frances cooked for many years, insisting on returning to YEAH! to serve dinner, engage with the youth with grandmotherly concern and wash dishes. I joined her, wondering where she found such stamina!

2016 brought two big changes: First, YEAH! became a year-round shelter with its new affiliation with Covenant House. Second, the FCCB fire destroyed the kitchen, the hub of our community effort. Missing not a single meal, team members prepared dinner items at home, delivered them to YEAH! and planned menus there.

Over time, 60+ people have participated: Sunday School classes, youth groups, college/ seminary students and adults of all ages. KCMT members have prepared more than 150 meals, including Thanksgiving dinners (16), Pride Dinners (5) featuring soul food requested by YEAH!, monthly dinners, plus emergency extras.

I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to shepherd this “team” for the past 16 years. Between the cooking activities, driving YEAH! coordinators on weekly grocery shopping trips and GED tutoring, I’ve learned so much. I salute all those who commit to working for the youth who seek a better path, and the resilience of the youth who are worth every effort. Frances was our inspiration; her work continues, as promised. (Frances died recently at the age of 101.)