Written by Sister Breda Christopher
Mary’s Kitchen has been serving the homeless of Orange County, California, for 25 years. Located in the city of Orange, it was the brain child of an Irish-born lady, Mary McAnena, who began her outreach to the homeless in 1984 at the age of 82. For 10 years Mary, with a few friends, cooked a hot meal in her home to feed those in dire need in her area.
In 1994 the city of Orange provided her a site on Struck Avenue on which to build a facility to serve the basic needs of the homeless in the city of Orange and the outlying areas. This facility adopted the name Mary’s Kitchen on the death of Mary McAnena in 2003 at the ripe old age of 100.
Mary’s Kitchen is powered by hard-working volunteers from all walks of life with diverse backgrounds. As volunteers we get the opportunity to visit with our homeless clients and they often share their life stories or their struggles with addictions or other problems which cause them much stress and anxiety. The number of volunteers varies from 10 to 30 on any given day. There is task for everyone. Monday through Saturday the homeless guests receive a cooked breakfast, a hot meal at 1 p.m., and a very generous brown bag of food “to go” for their evening meal. Other amenities offered are showers, laundry facilities , toiletries and clothing.
Financial support is provided through generous donations from individuals, churches, local corporations and small businesses.
Sister Immaculata Kelly and I are among the volunteers at Mary’s Kitchen. We feel we receive more than we give through our interaction with our homeless friends and our many volunteer friends. As is obvious from the picture, volunteers come in all sizes and that is the long and the short of it!