It’s a Wednesday night, and there is laughter and singing coming from the kitchen at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Chicago.

Wonderful smells waft from the ovens as large pans of mostaccioli, baked chicken or macaroni and cheese sizzle. Corn-on-the cob bobbles in the boiling water on the stove.

The Krocettes, a group of women who have prepared dinner for youth in the Wednesday night Bible-study classes at Chicago’s Kroc Center for the last 10 years, are creating their weekly culinary magic.

“Ministry comes in all different forms. Food ministry seems to be our thing,” said Wandella Akins, one of the original Krocettes who began volunteering when the center first opened.

Three Bible-study classes run each Wednesday night for youth and young adults ranging in age from 5 to 20. The Krocettes deliver the hot meals on trays to the students.

“It has to be a healthy dinner, along with a dessert; maybe cookies or fruit or applesauce,” said Brenda Gordon, another original Krocette. “This may be the only meal the kids get that day, besides what they get at school. You are praying that this meal will hopefully be a blessing to them.”

Housekeeping and security staff members often get a dinner plate too. “We feed them all. You don’t want anyone leaving hungry,” Wandella said.

Major K. Kendall (KK) Mathews, senior Kroc officer at the center, is considered to be the Krocettes’ official taste-tester.

“Yes, I am!” Major KK said, proudly confirming his taste-testing title. He calls what the Krocettes do a culinary arts celebration. “These ladies are full of joy,” he said. “Every Wednesday is a celebration. They take pride in what they do. Their meal is their mission.”

On some Wednesday nights, a local pizzeria delivers pizzas for the students’ dinner. The Krocettes supplement the pizzas with their healthy side-dishes.

Natasha Lewis is Brenda’s daughter. She has been a Krocette for about nine years.

“We all work so well together,” Natsha said fondly. “There is such a wonderful atmosphere in the kitchen. You can feel the spirit of everyone working together, feeling love. The best day for me is when we prepare the annual Thanksgiving meal.”

Lorraine Jones became a Krocette about three years ago. She and Brenda have known each other for more than 50 years, and they attended nursing school together. Now they find themselves side-by-side, wearing their matching Krocette aprons.

Lorraine loves serving the healthy fare to grateful recipients. “The kids come back and thank us for the meals,” she said. “There is appreciation from everyone.”

There are also some “junior” Krocettes who assist in the kitchen at times. These ladies include Brenda’s daughter, Yolanda Bragg; Brenda’s granddaughter Devoria Gordon, and her younger sister Fatina Jackson.

“They have not been in the kitchen for as long as we have. So we are breaking them in,” Brenda said with some laughter.

Behind all of the light-hearted conversation, each Krocette knows the importance of what she does in that kitchen each week.

“Serving. It’s all about serving,” Natasha added. “It’s about getting up, going to church and cooking a
meal for someone who may not have another meal that day.”




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