Lord’s Diner goes from dine-in to carry-out

Patrons of The Lord’s Diner must now pick up their food instead of dining in.

Dinner service at The Lord’s Diner went from dine-in to carry-out as the result of a city-wide Covid-19-related order March 16 banning large groups in Sedgwick County.

Sarah Hoffman, the Diner’s volunteer coordinator, said Monday, March 23, that the Diner is open during regular hours but that they are serving “straight out the door.”

“It just allows us to continue our mission to continue serving every day like we vowed to 18 years ago,” she said. “And it keeps our volunteers and our guests just as safe and healthy as possible.”

The number of volunteers is being limited, she said, adding that about 10 are volunteering at the Broadway site and five at the Hillside site.

The Diner has two brick and mortar locations in Wichita, one at 520 N. Broadway and one at 2825 S. Hillside in Wichita. The Wichita Lord’s Diner also serves the hungry via trucks that visit three neighborhoods from 4 to 6 p.m.

Their clients appreciate the ministry’s adaptation, Hoffman said.

“We’ve had guests tell us thank-you for not forgetting us or thank-you for still being here when you don’t necessarily have to,” she said. “But that’s what our mission is and that’s what we’re here to do.”

The appreciation is reassuring and heartwarming, Hoffman said, adding that “it reminds us that we’re doing the right thing.”

Hoffman said the number of patrons visiting the brick and mortar locations doesn’t seem to be decreasing, although visits to the trucks may be down. She said the Diner on Broadway is handing out about 500 meals nightly.

Diner Director Jan Haberly said in a letter to donors that the ministry has faced many challenges in its 18 years of operation but that the pandemic has been its most challenging.

“In these 18 years, we have never closed our doors to those needing a hot meal. We are committed to keeping our doors open, and therein lies the biggest challenge. Our guests need us and have no other options for meals. It would break our hearts to close.”

To avoid that possibility, Haberly said, the Diner cooked up a contingency plan to feed the hungry in case of a ban on large groups.

“When the mandate to limit the number of people gathering came, we were ready,” she said. “The great news is our plan is working very well. There have been a few nights when we were short on volunteers, but this amazing staff and our families have stepped in.”

Haberly said she understands why many volunteers are following health expert advice to stay home, and that they are encouraged to do so if they feel at risk.

“We are grateful to those who are still able to volunteer, and we are maintaining as much social distance as we can. Our trucks are still operating as usual, as contact between our guests and truck volunteers is limited.”

Containers at The Lord’s Diner are being filled on an assembly line.