PINETOP-LAKESIDE – The goal of The Community Kitchen was to be able to serve the hungry and food insecure before Easter, and it did.
Though the former Love Kitchen building owned by Blue Ridge Unified School District had not received its clearance from the school to begin the rebuild, board members of the nonprofit put out 600 flyers at Walmart, The Home Depot and Safeway parking lots inviting people to come out for The Community Kitchen’s barbecue drive-thru.
On a wing and a prayer, and with the help of community businesses that donated food or came to help with setup and food distribution, The Kitchen served 300 people between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Monday.
According to Dawn Ricketts, registered agent of the nonprofit, some people showed up before the event began and just waited in their cars until the traffic monitors motioned them in.
They served hot dog plates to the people, and like short-order cooks added whatever condiments they requested, serving them through an open car window. They also gave them a bag of food to take home. Hot dog plates consisted of a hot dog, chips and water. The food bags were filled with salmon, chicken, bread, corn and other vegetables and treats that came from both Safeway locations, Eddie’s Country Store, Walmart and Baked in Pinetop.
Not knowing how many people would show up for the drive-thru, Ricketts made several runs to the Pinetop Safeway for more hot dogs and chips, and they never failed to help fill the need.
The Kitchen gave away a total of 148 bags of food, and with the outpouring of people who showed up, they will continue the drive-thru every two weeks until the building is ready to open.
Hatch Toyota, which recently did a fundraiser for The Community Kitchen, Mountain Mobile Auto Glass, which is planning a fundraiser promotion, Bianco Plumbing, which has already marked the property with white paint to identify where it will bring in the pipe for the plumbing, and Rim Country Media, which has helped The Kitchen with its promotions, all showed up to help with the event.
Three men from a construction crew also joined in to help and said when the building is ready they will do the sheet rock. Word came through Bianco Plumbing that Hughes Supply Plumbing will donate a 100-gallon water heater to The Kitchen.
Ricketts said she prayed the people who needed food would come and they did.
On Tuesday, Ricketts got another bit of good news. The BRUSD advised her that the facility is now clear for the build out, so the construction work can begin.
The Love Kitchen, which fed the hungry for 35 years, closed it doors on Dec. 1 following a series of complications during the pandemic.
The Community Kitchen, a 501 © (3) nonprofit, was given the green light by BRUSD to proceed with building cleanup and to begin its capital campaign for the needed repairs to the building in January. Now that officials have been given clearance to begin construction, Ricketts said they anticipate the building will be ready to open sometime in May, depending upon construction.
The Community Kitchen has a fundraising account at Arizona Central Credit Union in Show Low.
The Kitchen is located just behind Eddie’s Country Store on Penrod Road in Pinetop.
Ricketts said when she was only 8 years old she sat on top of her daddy’s car one Sunday after church. She was contemplating something the preacher had said that she did not understand. He said, “God is so big he can fill the universe but he is so small he can fill your heart.”
Today, she knows what that means.