For over 25 years, Champaign County residents in need of anything from a hot meal to a place to stay have found just that at 300 Miami St. in Urbana, where the Caring Kitchen provides a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, food pantry and various other services to the public free of charge.
While the state provides over $50,000 in funding every year, Caring Kitchen Executive Director Marilyn Cohn said, the nonprofit organization wouldn’t be able to offer the services it does year after year without community members stepping up to donate money, food, services and volunteer hours.
“We are so blessed because this community takes excellent care of us,” she said. “We couldn’t do it without the community because the grant we receive from the state is $110,000 for every two years, and we couldn’t survive just on that.”
According to Administrative Secretary Edith Kastl, Caring Kitchen operates on an annual budget of $280,000. In 2015, the nonprofit brought in a total income of $306,738.25, with donations making up 49 percent of the revenue, while grant funding accounted for 24 percent. The other 27 percent of the Caring Kitchen’s revenue last year came from other sources like marriage license fees that go toward domestic violence prevention and a financial contribution from the United Way.
Of the $151,173.05 in donations the Caring Kitchen received in 2015, private donations amounted to $60,415.91, while area churches donated $17,136.75. The largest portion of the total donations – $73,620.39 – was of the in-kind variety, meaning they were non-monetary donations like food and donated services.
Kastl said the sources of income change from year to year, but the total yearly income has stayed flat over the years.
“We are fortunate in that the total income stays relatively the same,” she said.
While total revenue has remained consistent over the past several years, the number of county residents seeking assistance from the Caring Kitchen has not.
“We have seen an increase in the people we help,” Kastl said.
In 2015, Caring Kitchen provided over 140,000 meals through its soup kitchen, a slight increase from 2014. As for the homeless shelter, 159 people stayed at the Caring Kitchen at some point in 2015, up from 137 people in 2014.
Cohn said it’s her belief the recent closings of the local American Red Cross office and Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio’s Urbana food pantry has led to more people turning to the Caring Kitchen for help.
“Request for services and the amount of people we are helping right now is up because of those closings,” she said.
The community, Cohn said, has stepped up to help one another out.
In 2015, donations to the Caring Kitchen’s food pantry reached an all-time high of 93,026 pounds of food, up from 77,935 pounds in 2014.
“I think the word is getting out about what we do here to help those in need,” Cohn said.
While monetary and non-monetary donations are always needed, Cohn acknowledged the true heart and soul of the Caring Kitchen is its volunteers.
In 2015, community members donated 7,062 hours to help out their fellow citizens.
“It takes a whole community to make this work, and we are blessed with a great community here in Champaign County,” Cohn said.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.