A Sunday ritual called the Rainier Pop-Up Kitchen attracts 150 or more people, many of them homeless, who line up for a hearty helping of kindness dished up by their neighbors on a Seattle sidewalk.
“It’s just a place for people to come and see their friends, to see us, who are now their friends, and welcome them, and say, ‘We’re here for you, and we care about you,’” said Lucas Hedrick, one of dozens of volunteers who plan, cook, and serve the Sunday meal beneath Interstate 90 where it crosses over Rainier Avenue South.
A nearby hillside used to be filled with tents. Hedrick drove past it all the time and finally, one chilly night back in March, he couldn’t ignore it any longer. So he grabbed blankets and a sack of burgers and started serving.
Hedrick later posted about it on a community discussion board.
“I am sharing this to remind you to not forget that homeless people are people too,” he wrote. “Just act, do anything, smile, hand someone a meal.”
People started asking how they could help. A few weeks later, a group of neighbors, inspired by Hedrick’s post, formed a Facebook group and started gathering weekly to plan Sunday’s menu and decide who will cook what.
No non-profit funds or organizes the group. It’s just a group of people who go to the grocery store and cook in their home kitchens.
The Rainier Avenue encampment is now gone. The city cleared it out months ago. But the pop-up kitchen keeps coming back. And so does a hungry crowd.
“They knew that we were still here,” Hedrick said.
People come from all over Seattle, from shelters, camps, and sidewalks, because they know they’ll get a hot meal and a smile.
“I see them now as friends and family,” said Benny Kofa, one of 135 served on a recent Sunday.
Some people who drive past might think this effort attracts more homeless people to the block. To them, Hedrick says open your eyes.
“The homeless people are everywhere. They’re in every neighborhood, every area, so there’s no way that we’re attracting more people here. They’re already here, you just don’t see them all the time, and when we feed them you see them,” he said.
How long will they keep doing this? No one has an answer. They just see what’s in front of them: A lot of people who who’ve found a familiar routine, who come hungry, and now have a seat at the table.
“I pray every day to see them on a Sunday, every given Sunday that they show up, it shows me the true love of God,” Kofa said.
More info on how to donate here.