The Lord’s Diner needs more hands as it moves to return to its original service model

Elizabeth House of Clearwater, left, and Shirley Cornett of Derby, drove into Wichita Monday, Aug. 21, to prepare salads for the patrons of the Broadway location of The Lord’s Diner. Additional volunteers are being recruited as the Diner anticipates more full-service dining beginning in January. (Advance photo)

Want to help the Diner in its time of need?

To volunteer, visit or call 316-266-4966. Details about the simple online food safety class and the Virtus class are there. Volunteers can be as young as 12 if they are accompanied by a parent. Most volunteers serve monthly, although the frequency is up to the volunteer. Volunteers of any faith are welcome to serve at the Diner.

The Lord’s Diner at Broadway and Central in Wichita is ready to pull the dishes out of the cupboard and polish the silverware.

Although the ministry to the hungry has been serving patrons who took their meals to-go and those who preferred to eat their meals in the dining room for several months, it is hoping to increase dining room service and reduce the number of to-go meals.

Emily Thome, the Diner’s director, set Monday, Jan. 15, as a target date to return to a fuller dining room experience, a service that was disrupted by the Covid epidemic but that has since been partially restored.

“We hope to give each one of our guests dignity of choice, but also we hope to give them dignity in the ability to use real dishes,” Thome said last week.

More loving volunteers needed

The dishes are stacked, the silverware is sorted, and the Diner’s shelves are stocked – it’s volunteers they lack.

“We will utilize 10 more volunteers each night,” Thome said. “So we are looking to bring back – hopefully – some of the volunteers we lost over Covid, but we also are hoping to recruit some new volunteers. Some of the volunteers who started 20 years ago haven’t been able to return after Covid.”

Ten volunteers a night means over 300 volunteers per month will be needed after the first of the year.

Volunteer and Communications Director Sarah Hoffman said the Diner needed less help when the dining room was closed but now that the ministry is phasing-in full service it is struggling to recruit more volunteer help.

She said the Diner’s staff is reconfiguring dining room service so that fewer volunteers are needed but more volunteers will still be necessary in January.

Volunteering is easy; a variety of duties

Hoffman said volunteering is as simple as visiting or by calling her at 316-266-4966. Volunteers need to take a simple food safety training and be Virtus certified.

The online food safety training and quiz takes about 15 minutes to complete, she said. Virtus training is offered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on the first Thursday of the month.

Volunteers will be assigned duties according to their abilities and desires, Hoffman said.

“We have some volunteers who place the food onto the plate,” she said. “We have some who refill drinks, we have some cleaning tables, we have some helping in the family room. So it’s kind of up to them – what they want to do and how they want to do it. There are definitely options.”

Volunteers choose their day

Thome said many parishes have selected one day of the month for their volunteers to minister at The Lord’s Diner, but volunteers may choose another day of the month that fits their schedule.

“We do have some fill-in days that we’re struggling with, so if somebody in a parish can’t work the parish’s specific day, we’re going to try to coordinate a day that works for them.”

Broadway location most in need

Hoffman said a few volunteers are needed some evenings at the Diner on South Hillside, which is already serving its patrons predominately on dishes.

“We still have some nights that are pretty slim there. So, if somebody wants to volunteer at Hillside at night, we’re still looking for that. But those ten-a-night are needed here at Broadway. We obviously always can use more help during the day, but this focus is on people who are willing to help at night.”

South Hillside transitioned last October

The South Hillside location transitioned to more full-service last October and was a pilot program for the downtown Diner’s transition. When it was introduced, Hoffman said about 50 percent would eat in and 50 percent would take their meals to-go.

“We’re seeing a little bit higher number dining in now, sometimes 60/40 and sometimes 70/30,” she said. “But we have not seen a total drop off of people wanting to take it to-go.”

The transition at the Broadway location is a bit trickier because of the entrances and the way patrons line up for food, she said, but they did come up with an idea that will allow patrons to take their food or dine in. The Diner anticipates that initially, the ratio of those who will stay for their meals or take them away will be similar to the South Hillside location, about 50/50.