Theodore Browning started eating at the Lord’s Diner a decade ago. He sought companionship to ease the pain when his mother died in 2002.
He found that and friendship when he stepped through the doors.
“These people really made it easier for me to cope,” the 45-year-old said Monday, grinning at his friend Donald Faber, who sat across the table. “It’s all for the comradery, the friendship and the ease of feeding myself with my friends.”
The men said they don’t eat every night at the downtown diner every night anymore, but both dropped in Monday to celebrate a milestone: the diner’s 10th anniversary.
“I enjoy this,” said Faber, age 70, between bites of chicken Alfredo and corn – a favorite among regulars – served Monday night. “It’s a nice place. They got good food.”
It takes 70 volunteers each day to prepare and serve the nightly hot meal to up to 450 people who visit the diner’s two Wichita locations – volunteers like Marilyn Bundy and her husband, Bob, who work at least three days a month preparing and serving free meals to Wichita’s hungry.
“I can hardly believe it’s been 10 years,” Marilyn Bundy said while she placed thick slices of bread on each plate. She nodded toward a woman calling raffle numbers at the front of the room. By the end of the night, almost all the guests walked away with a prize: blankets, T-shirts and other goodies. “With all of this I think that people think it’s something special. And I think we enjoy it just as much.”
The Lord’s Diner opened its first location, 520 N. Broadway, in 2002 after then-Bishop Eugene Gerber saw a need to feed area homeless a hot meal each day. Over the years, the number of diners has grown from 200 to about 400 nightly, diner executive director Jan Haberly said.
The diner opened a second location last May to better meet the needs of south-siders and families living in the Planeview neighborhood. About 150 meals are served at 2825 S. Hillside each night; up to a third of the diners are children.
“So 30 to 50 kids, that makes all of us happy,” Haberly said. “Hopefully our numbers will just continue to grow down there – more and more kids.”
“I’m really proud of the support,” she added.
The diner is open from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 365 days a year to anyone, regardless of income.
After a decade of service and nearly 1.5 million meals served, its mission is still the same: to give each guest a hot meal, friendship, dignity and respect.
“A lot of this is food for the body, but a lot is socialization,” Marilyn Bundy said. “ I feel like the Lord’s Diner does as much for me as they do for them.”