I got Amber Rodriguez on the phone in the middle of a run to Sam's, restocking on supplies to reopen her business. Her business is Noah's Kitchen, a non-profit charity organization that makes both hot and cold meals and hands them out to the homeless and needy around Houston. They don't do this at a fixed location; they literally drive around in their vehicles until they find someone panhandling or rooting through trash or what have you, and they actually, physically hand that person a meal. It really is a beautiful thing, the kind of random, ambient kindness which is constantly being mistaken for miracles.
But in fact, it doesn't spring from the ether. Amber and her volunteers must tirelessly prepare hundreds of meals before heading out to distribute them, and until recently, this was done on Sundays at a donated space in a warehouse near Airline and I-45. The current tenant, unfortunately, has not kept up with the rent, and Noah's Kitchen has found itself locked out of its prep space, with all its equipment inside.
Being a non-profit organization, this equipment had to come from donations or from the volunteers' own pocket money. "It sucks, but it's not as bad as it could be," Rodriguez told me as she shopped for new supplies. "I've talked to some attorneys, and legally the landlord can let us in to collect our things. We're currently looking at filing paperwork, not so much of a punitive nature, but just to make it official that we're requesting to be let in. So it's not happening right now, but it will happen, we will eventually get our stuff back."
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So in the meantime, is Noah's Kitchen down for the count? "No, actually we've moved over to do our prep work at the Bread of Life church at 1703 Gray Street," Rodriguez continued, cheerfulness returning to her voice. "This Sunday, our younger volunteers will be handing out hot meals at Bread of Life, and our adults will be driving around and handing out cold meals."
When asked how long Noah's Kitchen will be based at Bread of Life, Rodriguez said, "I plan on at least through the end of the year." She seems excited about the new space, and although the lockout means there's a bunch of food going bad somewhere and a bunch of perfectly good supplies idling uselessly, at least Rodriguez isn't letting the setback slow Noah's Kitchen's forward momentum.
You can follow Noah's Kitchen on Twitter, and you can scroll back to February 26 to watch the lockout happen, followed by the subsequent outpouring of support and aid from the local Houston community. It is heartwarming to read.