Did you know?
Miriam’s Kitchen (MK) has been a part of Western Presbyterian Church (WPC) for 36 years!
In 1983 the Pastor of First Congregational Church approached Rev. John Wimberly, WPC Pastor, about using a $5,000 FEMA grant to establish a meal program for the homeless east of the White House. Rev. Wimberly worked with the United Church and partners from GWU faith community, who operated a homeless shelter known as Miriam’s Place, to establish Miriam’s Kitchen.
It is an understatement to say MK has evolved. In the very beginning breakfasts were prepared in the WPC church kitchen on H Street and served in Styrofoam containers at a temporary location nearby. With the blessing and commitment of the Session, the program moved into the church Fellowship Hall in Jan. 1984.
In 1993 MK moved with WPC to its current location at 24th Street and Virginia Ave. The space included a commercial kitchen and a large, dedicated dining room. Case management was added to the program.
In 2011, staff dedicated to advocating for the end of chronic homelessness was also.
In 2014, Miriam’s Kitchen added case management for formerly homeless individuals who moved into permanent supportive housing. In 2019, they serve 175 individuals through the program.
In 2018 MK helped 117 guests move into permanent housing; MK advocacy efforts helped achieve an increase of 40% in DC Government funding for apartments for the homeless, and between 150 to 200 persons received a restaurant quality breakfast and/or dinner on weekdays.
Why a MK/WPC Working Group now?
The WPC Session created a MK/WPC Working Group in Nov. 2017. The group was established to review and update the existing Building Agreement (expiring in June 2018) for consideration by the WPC Session and MK Board. The Building Agreement memorializes how MK and WPC share space, what MK pays in space use fees, and WPC’s responsibility for providing maintenance.
After the Building Agreement was approved, the Working Group agreed to continue work on building closer relationships between the two groups focusing on enhancing mutual goals. Members on the Working Group were expanded to include MK Board members. Current members of the Working Group include:
- Renee Baiorunos, Chair MK Board;
- Tammy Wright, MK Board;
- Scott Schenkelberg, MK CEO;
- Cindy Stevens, current member WPC Session;
- Todd Trafford, past member WPC Session;
- Laura Cunningham, WPC Pastor;
- Jean Yablon, WPC coordinator for WPC MK volunteers;
- Lauren Amos, WPC member and representative to the MK Board; and
- Sherry Trafford, WPC member and representative to MK Board.
Accomplishments of the MK/WPC Working Group in 2017-2018
MK Sunday at WPC- – Nov. 2017
The traditional annual service featuring MK was moved to the MK Dining Room. MK staff and guests participated with WPC clergy to provide a worship experience including stories of how lives are changed through MK programs.
Sharing programmatic information – – January 2018
WPC and MK communication staff teams share information deemed relevant to the other organization. Information about MK advocacy and fundraising activities are routinely included in WPC electronic and paper bulletins. WPC is exploring how to share its mission work with interested MK staff and volunteers.
Renewed Building Agreement – – June 2018
In the 2019-2021 Agreement approved by both governing boards in June, MK agreed to increased use fees and WPC committed to timely and effective resolution of maintenance issues occurring in the kitchen and dining areas.
Starter Kits for MK Guests moving into Permanent Housing – – July 2018
The Mission Ministry Team initiated a Starter Kit program to provide MK guests moving into new homes with the essentials, including pots and pans for the kitchen, dining utensils, dish soap and cleaning supplies, bed linens and laundry detergent. Twenty-two congregation members contributed $100 each to create 22 home Starter Kits. This program fills a gap created when MK lost funding from the DC Government to purchase these items.
Quick Link to MK Volunteer HUB – – September 2018
MK and WPC established an electronic link for WPC MK volunteers to quickly access MK Volunteer HUB to sign up for dinner or breakfast service.
Support for People for Fairness Coalition – – Fall 2018
MK helped establish and supports the People for Fairness Coalition (PFFC), a grass roots advocacy group that works to increase access to affordable housing, is currently leading the initiative for the establishment of public restrooms in DC, and organizes the annual DC Vigil for the Homeless. At the invite of the Mission Ministry team PFFC briefed WPC members on the public restroom campaign. Western members participated in and helped with costs of the 2018 Vigil and Rev. Cunningham preached at the memorial service.
MK Sunday at WPC – – Nov. 2018
In 2018, MK Sunday was again held in the MK dining room. Scott Schenkelberg, CEO of MK, Mary Kathryn Cook, MK Case Management, and Sherry Trafford, WPC member, shared personal reflections on the impact of MK services in the lives of homeless people. Scott also led the Free Inquiry class that day and shared a case study written by a Tufts University professor elaborating on the MK’s social change model designed to end chronic homelessness.
Potluck – – MK Board and WPC Session and key staff – – November 2018
MK Board and WPC Session members gathered for a potluck dinner at the home of WPC members David and Pricilla Little. It was a time for good food and drink and getting to know one another better. WPC member Clark Talkington was honored for his tenure serving as a WPC representative on the MK Board.
2019 Work Plan for the MK/WPC Working Group
The 2019 Work Plan includes several activities for building relationships of staff and Board/Session/WPC members including an information session on MK services and joint volunteer and social opportunities. Other ideas include development of a visual display of MK/WPC shared history and quarterly memorial services at WPC for individuals who died while homeless. The first such service was held March 5, 2019.