KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Meal tokens from Thelma's Kitchen are the currency that can make a difference between someone having a meal and going hungry, and a new partnership is opening a new window of opportunity.
“They’re giving them hope, that token is hope," Thelma's Kitchen program manager Randi Hobbs said.
For those who need the help the most, that hope is coming from the hands of those sworn to serve and protect.
“We can start off with a token that leads to a meal, and that leads to something else," Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department community interaction officer Charmainne Sanders said. “It makes people look at us a little different. We’re out actually helping people, getting them the resources that we maybe don’t have but we know where we can point them to.“
Since Christmas, KCPD officers have given out 40 tokens from Thelma's Kitchen, each one specially marked with a blue rim to track how many would come back.
The goal is to feed the community while building community relationships through those who hand them out.
“It's finding a positive interaction with their [police] neighbors and our [Thelma’s] neighbors,“ Hobbs said of the effort.
“Thelma’s Kitchen is just one way that the police officers can maybe reach out to lend a helping hand and show some compassion for people,” volunteer Jenny Owens said.
On Thursday, Alana Clark found herself as a first-time customer at Thelma's Kitchen.
Clark and her three young boys experience homelessness.
When Clark came up to the window with four meal tokens on Thursday, Hobbs excitedly told Clark she only needed to use one.
"You're good hunny. You keep those for you! Kids under 12 eat free," Hobbs told Clark.
"It was just a lift off my shoulder because every day I’m struggling with my boys, but I’m trying to keep my head above water,“ Clark said smiling with her stack of lunches. “I just wanted to cry because I have been going through a lot these last few weeks, so I just want to thank you guys, thank you so much for helping my family”
Owens said she sees it as a constant reminder - there is always something we can do for someone else.
“Those tokens provide dignity and grace for folks that don’t have the ability to have a good healthy meal," Hobbs continued. "They can come to the window, hand over the token and get anything on the menu they ask for. That does not normally happen in their everyday business.“
“It was just another way to get out and interact with people, explain to people what this is, how they can not only get a meal but help them get social services as well," Sanders said. "I think that’s something that we see a lot of need for today.”
According to Thelma's, of the 40 tokens given to KCPD, about 15 had come back already.
Anyone can buy Thelma's Kitchen meal tokens to be donated to Thelma's for others to use when someone comes up to the window without money or to be handed out on their own.
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