It was a free meal, but it was also a love fest for 200.
Those who received the free Thanksgiving meal were grateful; its benefactor loved being able to do it for them.
On Saturday, Arnetta Griffin, a woman who cooks for and feeds residents of Uptown twice daily under her nonprofit enterprise called God’s Kitchen, hosted a Thanksgiving “blessing meal” in the parking lot of the Uptown Pantry, 6119 22nd Ave.
“(Area residents) rely on (these meals) every day, and that makes me just want to do it even more!” exclaimed Griffin.
A half hour before the meal was to begin, families, many with small children, sat on folding chairs under a tent while cold rain poured down.
Area resident Lakeya Garrett said she and her three children often come out for Griffin’s daily lunch and dinner meals.
“I am thankful for Ms. Griffin helping the homeless and families who wouldn’t have Thanksgiving,” she said.
Relying on donations and a team of volunteers, including her children, Griffin whipped up an impressive bill of fare.
“We’ve got ham, greens, mashed potatoes, turkey, dressing, fried chicken — enough for 200 people!” Griffin said.
The Wisconsin chapter of a national street ministry group called Misfits for Jesus contributed crock pots of chili, coffee and hot cocoa and helped pass out the food.
From two vans, the mobile ministry team also distributed warm blankets, gloves and hats to those who needed them.
When Griffin’s food arrived at noon, she waved people over, shouting, “Come on, y’all — let’s get into a circle of prayer!”
After a blessing from pastor Lawrence Kirby II, of Acts Church, the first 50 men, women and children lined up for the feast.
The meal was slated to run until 4:30 p.m., but by 2:30 p.m., the food for 200 was gone.
“And that was a lot of food!” Griffin said.
Cooking since May
Griffin, 51, has been offering up home-cooked meals to those in need since May, after the closing of First Step Services, a low-barrier homeless shelter. Since then, the effort has become a nonprofit organization called God’s Kitchen.
A little over a week ago Griffin learned that the Kenosha County Division of Health received a complaint about her cooking the food in a home kitchen. She then sought out a commercial kitchen to meet her needs.
Monday she will begin cooking her twice-daily meals in the kitchens of Bourbon Legends, 2200 60th St., which has agreed to let her share the space. The meals will then be transported to the parking lot of the Uptown Pantry.
“The man from the health department said he’s closing my case!” Griffin announced.
“It’s amazing,” said Kirby, commenting on Griffin’s efforts. “We are so proud of her and all her work. Arnetta’s one of those people who saw a need: She simply wanted to feed people, so she fed people.”
“This is my first Thanksgiving doing this, and I can’t wait for Christmas!” Griffin said. “We’re praying for an inside location somewhere in this area.”
“She’s the real deal,” said Jeff Schenning, one of Griffin’s self-proclaimed “elves.”
Schenning and his wife Sue became volunteers for God’s Kitchen after learning about her work last spring.
“I’ve been around a lot of ministries, and this is one of the best grassroots efforts I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“There are a lot of blessings out here thanks to Arnetta,” said meal participant Sam Jones. “She’s giving people hope, knowing they won’t go hungry. That’s what this area needs.”