Second Lord's Diner opens Monday (2011)

Bishop Michael Jackels, right, meets the new chef Jeff Tabares during the dedication of the Lord's Diner on South Hillside on Friday. (May 13, 2011)
Bishop Michael Jackels, right, meets the new chef Jeff Tabares during the dedication of the Lord's Diner on South Hillside on Friday. (May 13, 2011) The Wichita Eagle

Director Wendy Glick doesn't know how many people will show up for dinner when the second Lord's Diner opens Monday night in southeast Wichita.

But if the need for food that agencies see throughout the city is any indication, the diner will be plenty busy.

Calls for food to the United Way of the Plains' 211 help line have spiked to 950 calls so far this year compared to 695 at this time last year, president Pat Hanrahan said.

"There aren't mass layoffs, but it (the recovery) is so slow, and the folks that we serve are going to be the last ones to get any reprieve from a struggling economy," said Brian Walker of the Kansas Food Bank. "I think we're going to be riding this new norm for a while before we start to see things improve."

The new Lord's Diner was blessed and dedicated Friday afternoon at 2825 S. Hillside, in the shadow of the old Joyland Park roller coaster.

"Remember Jesus," Wichita Diocese Bishop Michael Jackels, told the crowd of contractors, staff and supporters who gathered. "He takes personally" what will be done for the needy there.

The diner, which the diocese runs, is stepping into the breach at the right time in the right place, Walker said.

Food pantries and the downtown Lord's Diner all see increased demand in the summer, when children are out of school and unable to have breakfast and lunch there.

And the new Lord's Diner, renovated at the former site of the Bread of Life food pantry, is in a neighborhood that does not have many food resources, Walker said.

"I think it's great that they chose that location, because the need is so high," he said, noting that lines of people used to snake out of Bread of Life.

The new diner, modeled on the one that opened at Broadway and Central in 2002, will be staffed with volunteers and feed anyone dinner, no questions asked, 365 days a year.

On its first night Monday, "we're cooking for 500," said Glick, executive director of the diner. The food will be prepared at the downtown diner and trucked to the new one each night. "We're hoping we can ease into it ... We're hoping for 350 or so. But our mission is to feed, and we don't want to have to turn anyone away."

The original Lord's Diner serves 450 people a night.

"A lot more families and children continue to come, as they have in the past two years," Glick said.

As numbers of the hungry have held steady, money to feed them has not, said Shannon Wedge of Episcopal Social Services Venture House. It serves a hot lunch Monday through Friday at 1005 E. Second St. It fed 25,000 people in 2010, up from 20,000 the year before.

"We used our last piece of meat today," Wedge said Thursday, indicating that until delayed federal money comes in, the lunches might be more along the lines of peanut butter and jelly.

An outpouring of generosity four years ago caused the Lord's Diner to pursue a second location.

"We felt so blessed with resources we felt God was calling us to do more," Glick said. Through demographic studies, the northeast part of the city was designated as the place to go, but neighborhood opposition stopped that plan. The charity looked toward the southeast in January 2010.

Reaction to the new diner has been "very positive," Glick said. Donations have ranged from many anonymous sources to a grant from Cargill Cares to cover the $33,000 cost of a truck to haul food and $5,000 from Dold Foods, the local manufacturing facility owned by Hormel Foods, Glick said.

Singer Josh Groban always makes donations to the cities where he performs, and he released 400 tickets for his concert next week that were given to people who donated $25 to the Lord's Diner, for a total of $10,000.

The diner has 95 percent of the 900 volunteers it needs, many from the neighborhood it will serve.

"We want the community in south Wichita to be part of the volunteer work there and really embrace our activity there," Glick said. "A lot of churches have come on board."

Two groups of teachers from the neighborhood Colvin Elementary School also are volunteering.

The new diner "has a little bit of its own look, but we're trying as much as possible to duplicate our mission" at Central and Broadway, Glick said. "The way in which people will be served, with respect and dignity, will be the same....

"We know we'll have some things to learn. After 9 1/2 years we pretty much have thought everything through. But we need lots of prayers."

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