“Everyone deserves to be fed.” – El
— Written by Allissa Rae
Each week for the past year, Elise Taylor has made it her mission to hand-deliver sandwiches to the homeless in the downtown area.
Elise Taylor, also known as El, says that her mission started when she began living downtown and became aware of the number of people approaching her and sitting on the streets.
El’s process usually begins late at night by preparing the sandwiches with items that she bought herself. She spends a little over an hour using peanut butter, jelly, and honey to make around a hundred sandwiches. Once she fills her cooler, she heads downtown for around three to four hours at a time.
When asked how she got started, “I have a passion for feeding people… because being able to feed people feeds me,” said El, “Nothing makes me happier than giving food to other people.”
During her normal deliveries, El typically walks the street alone at night. She most often encounters people who are already asleep, but on the occasion that the person is awake, she takes her time to talk to them as she offers them a sandwich.
El explains her reason for delivering late at night is because she does not want to bring attention to herself or make people feel like they can’t accept help.
“I feel like we have completely dehumanized the homeless, that is my whole purpose in this is to make people feel like someone cares about them.”
In explaining why she feels the need to feed others, she says that a lot of her motivation comes from her family. There were times growing up that food wasn’t always plentiful. This experience became her inspiration in making sure no one else is hungry.
By using her own hands, El continues to make a difference in downtown Chattanooga by bringing food to those in need.
When asked why she takes her time to feed others, El states, “No one should be hungry.”
— Podcast by Connor Brown
— Written by staff writer El Taylor
Sometimes when it comes to asking for help, there are strings attached. The Community Kitchen in Downtown Chattanooga is a place where extensive help can be found, free of strings. Founded in 1982, the Community Kitchen began with serving one meal a day has developed to three free meals, family care, partnered health care, basic life skill classes, foot care and a thrift store/donation center. This multi-op program relies almost solely on donations from the area.
“Even though we have so much down here [in food stock room], we feed 500-600 meals a day- so it goes by pretty quickly” David Costello, Community Event Director. He says the Community Kitchen is much more than just a kitchen, but the food is probably one of the biggest impacts that they have.
The biggest goal of the kitchen is to get people up and back on their feet. They see and understand the need for more than a one time assistance. The Community Kitchen provides shelter during the winter months, averaging 100 people a night inside. Though it’s nothing more than a mat, pillow and blanket, it brings people inside and out of the cold.
Describing the thrift store connected to the kitchen, Costello said “Our donation center gives away about eighty-five percent of everything in it. The thrift store is open to the public, but really there’s only a two percent profit coming from it. We provide up to an outfit a week, for interviews or work.”
In a large storage basement downstairs, they stock furniture for whenever they successfully move people into homes, or for low income families that need replacements.
The Community Kitchen also offers employment programs through the operation itself, often time bringing people back on their feet, with employment through recycling positions, desk work, kitchen jobs, cleaning positions. They teach people skills that they need when having a job too, like time management, being organized and showing up looking professional.
Despite the stigma against homeless people, the majority of the businesses in the surrounding area partner with and help the Community Kitchen.
They receive food donations from places like Publix and Food City. The only thing that they struggle to keep in stock often times is breakfast items. A lot of canned foods and things for lunch are often donated, breakfast items are often overlooked.
What has started with a meal is now servicing an entire community in so many ways.
Meet the Storytellers
Elian Richter works as a photojournalist and action photographer. He has experience covering events such as USA Boxing qualifiers and Presidential arrivals on Air Force One. Elian has had works published on Rising Rock Media and the UTC Echo. In his free time, Elian enjoys rock climbing and being outdoors. Contact Elian Richter at email@example.com.
Rianne Cox is a videographer and writer based in Chattanooga, striving to tell stories across different mediums. A graduating senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, she plans to pursue a career in video work. With experience in video editing, set design, academic writing, and creative writing, she aims to produce the highest quality content possible. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Allissa Rae is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga working on her communication degree with a minor in creative writing. As an aspiring author, Allissa is working on finishing a novel while focusing on developing her photography skills. With a wide variety of interests, Allissa strives to tell journalistic stories. Contact Allissa to find out her other works in progress at email@example.com.
Connor Brown is an audio producer, content writer and photographer pursuing a degree in Communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Much of his work draws inspiration from his passion for film as well as the odd moments of everyday life. He can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org
El Taylor works as an event coordinator and specializes in wedding planning. El has a passion for videography and loves to incorporate that at weddings/events. She is organized and gets things done efficiently. She will graduate early from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in Communication and a minor in Anthropology. Contact her at email@example.com
Produced by Rising Rock Media