The Lord’s Diner to begin transition to open its dining room

Patrons of The Lord’s Diner walk past a modified door last Thursday, March 24, to pick up their meals. They have had to pick up their food to take home or eat outdoors after the dining room was closed about two years ago. The dining room will partially open beginning May 2 in a transition to full dining service. Video is below. (Advance photos)

Volunteers needed: Volunteers are needed to staff The Lord’s Diner as it moves to full service. To donate or volunteer visit

The Lord’s Diner will begin transitioning to full dining room service at the downtown Wichita location in about a month.

After two years of serving to-go meals, the diocesan food ministry will re-introduce full dining service – initially to the homeless – on Monday, May 2. The dining room will open fully when enough volunteers can be recruited and trained, according to Sarah Hoffman, the Diner’s volunteer coordinator.

The volunteers needed was reduced dramatically two years ago after Sedgwick County placed a ban on all gatherings of more than 250 people, she said in an email to volunteers.

“We didn’t know how long it would last and we didn’t know what to expect,” Hoffman said, “but you all continued to support us and we will forever be grateful for your resilience.”

Volunteers have been generous

She added that the response of volunteers during the pandemic honors Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber’s dream when he envisioned the ministry.

That dedication was also reflected in a comment a guest made in the early days of the pandemic: “Thank you for not forgetting about us.”

Hoffman said during the “soft opening” the homeless guests would be allowed to dine in the Diner’s family room or take their meal with them.

Jan Haberly, the director of the Diner, said she is happy to begin the transition. “The homeless will be welcomed to come in the dining hall to eat and those with homes will be encouraged to go home so we can build back slowly rather than open up and go full force right off the bat.”

Disposable containers and utensils will continue to be used in the transition, she said.

The ministry began serving to-go meals at the two brick-and-mortar locations in Wichita and the one in Pittsburg when the pandemic began and had to make only minor adjustments over the 24 months. A transition to full dining service would have taken place sooner but was delayed because of the Covid case uptick resulting from the virus’ Omicron variant.

A lot of work to do

Before the pandemic, the downtown location had about 30 to 35 volunteers every evening, with about 15 at the Hillside location and in Pittsburg. “We cut that down to 10 here on Broadway and only five at the other two locations,” she said. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The Hillside location will likely begin full dine-in service on May 2, Haberly added, because the number of homeless in that area is minimal and because fewer volunteers are needed there.

She said she understands that some of the volunteers have reached an age where they are not able to do some of the tasks necessary, but she is hopeful that the able-bodied volunteers will return soon.

Haberly said she is a little concerned about the re-opening because some of the recently hired staff didn’t work at the Diner when the dining room was open. Another challenge will be helping guests with mental illness and discipline problems re-adjust to the indoor dining.

“We’ll have a learning curve, but that’s OK,” she said. “We’ll do it.”