Salvation Army cookin' with partners to keep kitchen open

Sep. 29—For the second time since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Austin's Salvation Army location is in an unfortunate, but familiar position when it comes to their kitchen.

However, also like the last time the organization is finding that it's not alone.

Recently, the cook at the Salvation Army resigned and when that happens work in the kitchen falls to Office Manager and Volunteer Coordinator Stacy Wisemore, forcing her to do two jobs at once.

The last time this happened the Salvation Army went three and a half years without a cook before hiring this latest, but through connections in the community its been able to continue serving meals Monday through Thursday.

"We ran into the same issue right after COVID started," Wisemore said. "We kind of had a few things put in place then and reached out and utilized contacts this time around."

Through entities like Hormel Foods and local churches, the Salvation Army has been able to continue offering meals to those who need them.

This time around, Mayo Clinic has stepped up to help with meals by providing two meals in September and another three in October, according to Southeast Minnesota Regional Executive Chef for Morrison Healthcare at Mayo Clinic Health Systems Kristine Wolner.

"I'm always about helping out in the community," Wolner said. "Helping where I can with food. I do extremely appreciate that we were asked to help support the Salvation Army and people aren't going without food."

For Mayo, the work of creating the extra meals for the Salvation Army is simply an extra step of creating more of what they are already had planned, aligning the outreach with the Meals on Wheels program.

Wolner estimates the amount of food delivered to the Salvation Army each time will feed around 70 to 80 people, which aligns nicely with the Salvation Army. Wisemore estimates the Salvation Army is feeding 50 to 60 people per evening, a number she said is on the rise.

"Our community meal numbers are actually going up," she said. "When we had our cook on board we served 25-35, sometimes 40. It seems like just over the last couple weeks I've seen new faces, but that's a good thing because it shows the program is working."

Wisemore said that she still has to tend the kitchen on the nights the meals aren't coming in, but help from groups like Mayo are helping alleviate the stresses that come along with the extra work.

"I still have to do my job," Wisemore said. "When I have groups that step in such as Mayo and Hormel and the church groups ... I don't have to take time out of my afternoon to prepare meals."