Food for thought, more, in Greensburg

Mobile kitchen site becomes more than just a place to eat.


Greensburg United Methodist Church destroyed by tornado serves as a backdrop at mobile kitchen site.
Credit: Rev. Kendal Utt

Volunteers Ryan Huxman and Myron Goering catch a bite to eat at the mobile kitchen.
Credit: Laura Halleman

The line of residents and volunteers at the mobile kitchen grew by the minute, but Nancy Profitt was undaunted by the influx. In fact, she welcomed it.

"We started out feeding about 300 lunches a day but today we've jumped to 600," said Profitt, disaster coordinator for Kansas West Conference-The United Methodist Church. "But that's what we're here for. These residents and volunteers need to be fed to go out there and do what needs to get done."

Profitt, along with volunteers from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), were on the ground in Greensburg just days after a May 4 tornado destroyed most of the town of 1,600 people. The EF-5 tornado, the most powerful on the enhanced Fujita scale, had winds estimated at more than 200 miles per hour. The storm killed nine people in the rural farming town.

The mobile kitchen, along with picnic tents and chairs that offered a brief reprieve from the heat of the day, were set up in the parking lot of what remains of Greensburg's United Methodist Church. The church, which was destroyed, serves as a backdrop to those who come to sit and eat.

While food and water is UMCOR's primary responsibility, a closer look shows that its site has become somewhat of a meeting place as well.

It's a place where residents who haven't seen each other since the tornado hug and catch up. It's a place where volunteers from various states introduce themselves and chat during lunch about the assistance they are giving to get Greensburg back on its feet. It's a meeting place where a hearty laugh fills the air when it's needed most and tears shed are met with comfort.

And as Profitt has found out, it's a place where sometimes you just need to lend an ear.

"We listen and the volunteers listen and it helps the residents," she said.

"The first day we were set up a lady came over to me, pointed and said, 'You see that church? That is my church,' Profitt recalled. "As you can see, the church is destroyed, but not the spirit of the people."

It takes about six to 10 volunteers a day to prepare one meal; fewer volunteers are needed to prepare breakfast. The mobile kitchen is self-sufficient and runs off of a generator so as not to draw on the community's resources.

While there is no time line set for when the mobile kitchen will leave Greensburg, there are plans to establish a disaster response office in Haviland, 10 miles east of Greensburg. Profitt said she expects the office to assist residents in the recovery efforts for up to two years.

Profitt said the mobile kitchen is in need of extra large cans of fruits and vegetables as well as single serving pudding and fruit cups. Donations can be sent or dropped off at J.C. Foods Building, 201 Jackson St., in nearby Pratt.

J.C. Foods is a distribution center working in conjunction with the United Methodist Church, Adventist Community Services, Kansas Food Bank and The Salvation Army.

Related Topics:

Rare PA tornado damages homes

Wicked weather hits NE Texas

Tornado hits Michigan town

More links on Tornadoes


DNN Sponsors include: