In the kitchen with Martee: Cooking for the homeless

This spacious, well-lit, well-equipped kitchen has been the source of many, many meals over the last four decades – most often prepared for students participating in the United Methodist ministry located one block from Radford University.

But on a recent chilly March afternoon, this kitchen is where a meal is being prepared for 11 homeless people invited to dine and sleep inside a nearby building.

The menu is enticing: Mashed potatoes resting on brioche, topped with roast beef, topped with gravy. A green bean casserole that is not your mother’s green bean casserole (here’s the recipe). A fetching dessert that will later be identified as Boston Cream Pie Poke Cake. And a fruit salad including pineapple, strawberries and grapes.

“I thought they had probably had a lot of tangerines and bananas lately, but not pineapple or strawberries,” says Martee Buchanan, as she slices the bright and fragrant fruit.

Over the years, Martee has invited many students to help prepare a meal for themselves or for others in this kitchen. As director of the Wesley Foundation (the name for United Methodist campus ministries at state schools), Martee long ago saw group cooking as an opportunity for fellowship and ministry.

Today, only one student accepted her offer. Sophomore Ashley Verburg is in the kitchen with Martee, cheerfully preparing gravy and scooping multi-colored fruit into Styrofoam bowls.

“I don’t get a lot of chances to cook at home because my mom is picky,” Ashley says with a smile. “I probably ask Martee a lot of dumb questions.”

The food will soon be packaged and picked up by a member of Grove United Methodist Church, then driven from Radford to the next town over: Christiansburg, Virginia.

There, at the Knights of Columbus building, 11 guests and 2 workers are waiting for the hot meal they have come to know will be above average, because it’s from Martee’s kitchen.

The diners are guests of a community outreach known as “To Our House,” which hosts as many as 14 homeless people overnight in churches and other public buildings during the cold-weather months. To limit the possibility of spreading COVID-19, this year the guests are sleeping in small tents perched inside the building.

But first, they’ll have a marvelous meal of meat, potatoes and more.

Related stories are coming soon. Write to me at annettespence@holston.org.

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