Volunteers urgently needed by The Lord’s Diner as it transitions to full dining service

This is an image from a video soliciting volunteers for The Lord’s Diner downtown location. (Catholic Advance)

Want to volunteer to feed ‘Jesus’?

The Lord’s Diner will be transitioning from a hybrid model now in use to using real dishes on Jan. 15. The Diner needs additional small groups willing to commit to a monthly volunteer night on a Friday or Saturday. Groups are not limited to churches, groups may be made up of families, friends, or other organizations. Openings range from 5 to 15 volunteers. Catholics who want to volunteer at the downtown Wichita Lord’s Diner are encouraged to sign up through their parish coordinator. Those unable to help on their parish’s day or who are interested in forming their own group can email [email protected]. The Lord’s Diner no longer requires volunteers to renew their food handler cards, so those who have served previously are welcome to come back. New volunteers will be directed to the food handler’s website and a Virtus child-protection class.

The Diner needs more volunteers to help serve the many faces of Jesus who show up at the ministry’s door every evening. The need for volunteers is a result of the Covid pandemic.

The ministry continued to feed the hungry during the pandemic but adjusted the way it served its guests, said Mary Claire Heimerman, the Diner’s volunteer coordinator. “In 2020 we only offered to-go meals. We were so blessed by all of our volunteers who helped us serve through the pandemic, however, because this system required fewer people, over time we lost a lot of our volunteer base. Since then we haven’t been able to fully reopen our dining room because we don’t have the volunteers to do so.”

Need many more hands on deck

The Diner’s volunteer coordinator said the ministry needs many more volunteers to don the Diner’s green aprons.

“Right now we’re doing a hybrid where all the meals are served in to-go boxes, and guests can choose whether they want to eat in or take it to-go,” she said.

Although the adjustment seems to be working, there are disadvantages.

“There is a large environmental and economic impact of the to-go Styrofoam containers,” Heimerman said.

“The other thing is our mission from the beginning was to serve our guests with dignity and respect. I feel the best way to do that is using real dishes.”

Up to 20 more volunteers needed nightly

The hybrid option now being used needs 17 to 20 volunteers nightly. For full service, 26 to 28 volunteers are needed.

“So it’s going up six to nine volunteers serving every single night of the week,” she said. “That number adds up really quickly.”

Heimerman said some of the larger parishes were able to respond to the increase. “Others have expressed that they are struggling to recruit more volunteers. So we’ve been encouraging people to come back or asking new people to join us. We are still definitely in need of more help. Where we’re really struggling is Fridays and Saturdays.”

Since its beginning in 2002, The Lord’s Diner has been a group effort, Heimerman said, “Our mission is only possible because of the work of our community. It is a little overwhelming because the need is so great, but I have been amazed by the incredible generosity of so many in our Diocese who continue to answer Christ’s call to serve Him in ‘the least of these.’”