Kitchen Doors: Neighbors Helping Neighbors

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Posted By on May 7, 2020

Andre House partners with local restaurants to serve guests

From small businesses to healthcare workers to families, the coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted all of our lives. One of the most affected groups is nonprofits, especially those that provide meals and services to people in need and rely heavily on donations and volunteers.     

Since 1984, Andre House has been serving people in need in Phoenix, who are referred to as guests. The organization has thousands of volunteers that support its services, including preparing and serving hundreds of meals six evenings a week.

When the pandemic struck, Andre House had to suspend its volunteer program for health and safety reasons but is more dedicated than ever to serving guests. “As part of our mission, Andre House is committed to feeding, clothing and comforting the most vulnerable among us,” said Elizabeth Wunsch, director of volunteer services and communications at Andre House. “Those who are experiencing homelessness are more vulnerable to serious health complications. It is important during this time to ensure those in need have nutrition and services to help them.”

With the severe economic impact of the pandemic, Andre House was faced with more people in need of services without critical volunteer support. Andre House went from relying on 30 volunteers to prepare and serve 450 to 550 meals per day to having 8 to 10 staff members preparing and serving 650 to 800 meals a day in the safest manner possible.

Andre House had to adapt to the circumstances and change how it serves guests, shifting from dining room service to serving takeout meals from the loading dock at its downtown Phoenix location. Without volunteers to prepare and serve meals, Andre House also had to change what it serves. The organization turned to local restaurants, providing the opportunity to support businesses that have been severely impacted by the pandemic.

“We could not sustain our meal service over a long period of time and still provide other services for our guests without volunteer support,” said Wunsch. “The local restaurants needed business, and this was a perfect opportunity to engage and support them. We frequent these restaurants. They are our friends. And now we are working together to nourish those in our community who need help.”

To meet the need, Andre House has been purchasing meals from neighborhood restaurants a few times a week, including Original Hamburger Works, Cibo, Mi Salsa, and Pita Jungle. The restaurants are grateful for the partnership.

“COVID-19 swept through our economy like a tidal wave,” said Bassel Osmani, co-founder of Pita Jungle, which operates more than 20 restaurants in Arizona. “Opening restaurants solely for to-go and delivery is a lifeline our community extended to us that is extremely appreciated and won’t be forgotten. Andre House has always been a bright shining star that never falls short on helping our fellow neighbors. We are grateful and privileged to be able to provide them with healthful and wholesome meals.”

In addition to serving meals, Andre House provides many other services, including handwashing stations, showers, clothing, hygiene kits and more. Andre House has strong relationships with other nonprofit organizations, including St. Mary’s Food Bank and St. Vincent de Paul, and is working closely with them to meet the increased need. “When pandemic concerns arose, all the organizations in this area met to figure out the best way to keep everyone safe. It takes a committed village to provide for the needs of so many,” Wunsch said.

Even with the challenges and uncertainties, Wunsch is focused on the positive. “We are again reminded of our common shared humanity. We are responsible for each other and, when put to the test, we find the best ways to live up to our responsibilities. Anything is possible if we become love in action,” she said.

To learn more about Andre House and donate to help fund meals and other services, visit andrehouse.org.

Shoshana Leon

About Shoshana Leon

Shoshana Leon is a culinary writer for Frontdoors Media and creator of Foodie Fo Sho.