Photos Jason Huynh
Drew Taylor is a large man of imposing kindness. He has worked with the Community Kitchen for over a decade helping to nurture a community unseen by so many. No other group in Rome has felt the pangs of this pandemic quite like that of the underprivileged and the homeless. He speaks with me about the challenges that face his organization and those that he serves.
Taylor explains, “like many other organizations, we’ve had to rethink how we do everything at the ‘Kitchen.’ Our volunteer crew is down to about four to five people from 10 normally, and we cut our days of operation to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to try and limit our community’s exposure to large groups, and keep everyone safe.” Taylor goes on to describe just how isolated many of the people that they serve have become as valuable gathering places are currently closed. While for some their daily lives will not be altered if the city library is closed, those who are displaced will feel a tremendous impact. “It’s not just access to the internet and information about current events that’s cut off; but a safe place to hang out and be together has vanished,” Taylor explains.
In following the state’s health guidelines for keeping people 6 feet apart and avoiding crowds larger than 10 people, the Community Kitchen has expanded their meal program to include all lunches served in to-go boxes with an additional sack meal for the off day. But unfortunately, following these guidelines also mandates that they close the showers that are usually open to the public.
The impact of limiting services clarified Taylor’s understanding of the larger issues facing this community. “We limited our days of operations and had to stop serving coffee. At first, some were angry, feeling disregarded perhaps. But once I had explained about the virus and new regulations, the look of shock on their faces helped me understand just how isolated this demographic is during this crisis. It’s not just the news, or the coffee; it’s hard to see these individuals cut off from basic needs such as showers, places to gather and to feel safe,” says Taylor.
In one week, the Community Kitchen served 20 new faces and anticipate many more as this pandemic continues to plague our nation. “As the times are proving to challenge us all, I hold the to the same promise as I have over the years. We will always have a meal to feed you if you are hungry,” Taylor says with conviction. “Our needs are different, and our process may look different, but our mission is the same.”
Taylor stresses the importance of working together to meet the needs of the Rome community, saying, “Don’t let these people be forgotten.”
To support the efforts of the Rome Community Kitchen, donations can be made through Paypal or credit card to: Romefloydcommunitykitchen.org and checks can be made out to Rome Community Kitchen 3 Central Plaza Ste. 384 Rome, Ga 30161