New leaders guide The Kitchen into its 35th birthday

Published: Mar. 6, 2018 at 9:23 PM CST
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The Kitchen Inc, under new leadership, is maintaining its programs in 2018 despite fundraising shortfalls in 2017.

Meleah Spencer, their new CEO, has been on the job since Thanksgiving, “It's kind of like drinking from a fire hose a little bit, but in a good way,” she said of her transition.

Late last month, The Kitchen announced that it was moving its compliance director, Michelle McCoy, over to programs director. The only catch is, McCoy still has her old responsibilities as well.

“This allows me to be more involved on the program side to actually work with people, which is what we're here to do,” McCoy said.

Those fundraising shortfalls prompted The Kitchen to cut staff and combine positions, but Spencer says that’s life for a non-profit. “It's not a way of just saying, 'hey, everyone double up on your jobs,' but it's a way to see our alignment, how we're organized, and are we working most efficiently and productively?” she said.

Late last year, The Kitchen mailed out postcards seeking donations, telling Springfield residents that it was $300,000 short through the month of October. They say they don’t have updated figures because their accounting department is going through a transition at the moment, and their audit of 2017 isn’t done yet.

“We had a little blip in our fundraising because we did such a good job getting our message out for our new shelter that we're building and getting funding for that and getting good community support for that, we kind of lagged in our everyday expenses,” Spencer said.

“We are on the right track,” McCoy said. “We still have some hurdles to overcome, but we still have our new shelter that will be complete in July and we're looking forward to that.”

They say their budget situation isn’t affecting their current programs. Last year they provided shelter to 360 households, including more than 100 with children, and they say they anticipate similar numbers this year. They’re even admitting more people into the Rare Breed drop-in center, which provides food and shelter to kids after school. They’ll now admit anyone up to age 24.

“Get a meal, take a shower, do laundry,” McCoy said. “We have providers on site that can hook them up with social security if they need that, or get an ID or mental health services.”

The Kitchen will celebrate its 35th birthday later this month, and their leaders say it’s come a long way.

“We started out as a soup kitchen by a Catholic nun,” McCoy said. “It was just a soup kitchen, literally a bowl of soup and some prayers. From there we evolved into a shelter. Today we have still have the shelter, but we also have homes in the community for folks and the youth drop in center. This year we anticipate continuing that path.”