Caritas of Austin, a nonprofit organization focused on ending homelessness in Austin TX, works tirelessly to deliver hot lunches to people in need. Starting at 9:00am each morning, a dedicated team of volunteers works under the guidance of Jennifer Mattson (Head Chef) and Brandon Harrison (Food Services Assistant), endearingly referred to as “Sous Chef” by Jennifer. They prep the Community Kitchen to serve over 250 meals daily. For the past year and a half, Mattson and Harrison have built a well oiled machine that serves hot, nutritious meals to anyone who walks through their doors (Monday thru Friday, 11:00am-12:30pm). That’s right — anyone.
For all you planners out there, prepare to have your minds blown. The menu for each meal is determined by donations received at Caritas of Austin; yet, each morning, Mattson and Harrison walk into the kitchen unsure of what donations have come in the night before. That means their lunches (prepared for over 300 people) are planned, created, and prepped in a matter of hours. How’s that for thinking on your toes?
Last month, the Aunt Bertha team had the privilege of volunteering at the Caritas of Austin Community Kitchen for a day, and were humbled and in awe of the team’s dedication and fine-tuned process. Alongside Mattson, Harrison, and a handful of long time volunteers, we served entrees, salad, fresh fruit, hot rolls, and washed dishes. Every single person that walked through the door was served — a standard that Mattson and Harrison strive for every day.
Caritas of Austin’s oft-mispronounced name (pronounced “CARE – it – ahs”) means love or charity in Latin. Although their first priority is working with people to establish stable housing, many don’t realize they offer comprehensive wrap-around services including: food services (enter, Community Kitchen), education classes, job placement, and veterans assistance.
According to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, 2,036 persons were homeless in Austin as of January 2017 — an 11% increase from 2015. That’s why these services are needed now more than ever in the Greater Austin community.
If you’re in the Austin area and are interested in volunteering with Caritas of Austin, please sign up on their website.
To find other community kitchens or meals in your area, please go to Aunt Bertha and select the “Food” category to search for programs serving your zip code.
By Meredith Englehart, Community Engagement Manager