By Charlene Scott-Myers
Special to the Register
The following article is reposted with permission from the Southwest Kansas Register, the newspaper of the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas. Emmaus House was founded by Fr. Gary Jarvis, C.PP.S.
In its 36-year history, Emmaus House in Garden City has served thousands of families, but it has been a lifesaver to women like Sandy Russell and Muna Ibrahim.
Sandy is the mother of eight children, Mona the mother of seven, “all growing and eating more,” as Sandy said. Both women have hard-working husbands struggling to make ends meet.
“My husband was switching jobs, and we were hurting trying to pay our bills, but we are catching up now,” said Sandy.
“The Salvation Army told me about Emmaus House. They give us vegetables, produce, bread, sweets, and blankets. I have three boys and five girls, the youngest 10, the oldest 18. My second oldest boy is 13, and he eats everything! I appreciate all the things that Emmaus House gives us.”
The extra food also really helps Mona Ibrahim’s family of seven children (the oldest 13, the youngest a year and a half). A native of Ethiopia, Mona moved to Garden City in 2008, living first in Houston after she left Ethiopia in 1992. Her husband works for Tyson, and she hopes to obtain a job as a translator soon.
Her children’s favorites are the breads and sweet rolls she brings home from Emmaus House. “They put tea and sugar on the bread, and they love it,” said the diminutive Mona, 34, who looks 18, and still dresses in her native Ethiopian vivid colors.
“I want to give my children opportunity,” she said, voicing the hope of every worthwhile mother. “I want my children to be happy.”
Emmaus House gives out 120 to 150 boxes of food every Wednesday and Friday to women like Sandy and Mona.
Located at 802 N. 5th Street, just north of St. Catherine Hospital and directed by Robin Marsh, Emmaus House also offers a homeless shelter and a soup kitchen.
Many Catholics and persons from other faiths are among the 120 volunteers at Emmaus House, however, among them Sister Roserita Weber, one of the Dominican Sisters working in Garden City.
“I pick up food boxes for three families who don’t have transportation,” she explained. “Last year, I delivered boxes to seven families, but now they have found jobs and bought cars, and are able to pick up their own boxes. Because I speak Spanish, I can help a lot of families.
“The churches of all denominations in Garden City and individuals donate to Emmaus House,” she added. “Some people bring food and money.”
It was Friday, delivery day for Sam’s Club and Dillon stores, which donate pies, doughnuts, cakes, cookies, and even gluten-free bread. Tysons also delivers chickens.
La Quita Clark is the Emmaus House food distribution manager, brimming with enthusiasm and devotion to her work.
“God just wanted me here,” she said. “He picked this job for me, and I am here because of God’s love.”
People must qualify for food boxes and meet government guidelines, and if they do, they are issued a card that allows them to come every two weeks for boxes of food.
Lorine Hewson, house manager, has worked for more than 35 years at Emmaus House.
“I started as a night staff person, and I told them I would stay for three months,” she said with a laugh. She sat at a table in a garage loaded with dozens of boxes, checking in each person who wished to receive a box of food.
Boxes are distributed Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 to 11 a.m., and again from 3 to 5 p.m.
Lorine also does the cooking for the homeless shelter. Winter sheltering services are available at Emmaus House from October 15 through April 30 for any adult or families in need. Intake for families or individuals seeking shelter is from 5 to 7 p.m. daily, which includes presenting a picture ID at the Garden City Police Department for a background check, as well as supplying a medical history.
All residents must be checked in by 7 p.m., unless prior arrangements are made. Residents must call ahead to confirm their rooms.
“We have had a bunch of people the past two years,” said La Quita, an Emmaus House employee for four years. “People also can walk in for lunch; breakfast is for people who sleep here.”
The Emmaus House offers residents breakfast, lunch, and dinner and a safe place to sleep in separate quarters for men, women, and families, storage space for personal belongings, phone and mail service, six bathrooms, and access to showers, as well as laundry facilities.
Meetings with case managers are provided free of charge.
A tour of the house revealed 10 beds for men upstairs, four beds and a rollaway bed for women downstairs, and two rooms for small families. Bunk beds with a double bed on the bottom and twin on the top and baby beds are available. Call (620) 275-2008 for more information.
By Charlene Scott-Myers