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Sedalia’s Open Door Service Center provides community in unlikely places

Customers wait in line for lunch at Open Door Kitchen on Monday, March 18 in Sedalia.
Olivia Mizelle
Customers wait in line for lunch at Open Door Kitchen on Monday, March 18 in Sedalia.

At 11:30 a.m. nearly every day, Sedalia community members are welcomed into Open Door Kitchen for a hot meal and conversation, the latter of which has kept Sedalia resident Curtis Jackson coming back to Open Door for the past 10 years.

“I like the people that come up here, you know? They easygoing," Jackson said.

Jackson said the kitchen is a great resource for him, even though he does have a place to live. He recently started a new job at KFC.

Many of the people eating at the kitchen have a clear camaraderie with each other, knowing each others’ names and bonding over shared jokes. Jackson said he's known David Buckner, another kitchen attendee, for years. Open Door’s service center helped Buckner find his home, where he has lived for about two months.

“They give you food. They give you clothes. They help you find a place to live. Get you off the drugs. Stuff like that,” Buckner said.

The service center also provides vouchers for the food pantry and thrift store, medical assistance, eyeglass referrals, and other needs.

Nearly 4,000 of of Sedalia’s approximately 22,000 people are living under the poverty line, and they have a large homeless population. Open Door’s Executive Director Amanda Davis said Open Door’s food pantry alone serves about 3,000 individuals every month.

Open Door also has a thrift store that has helped Doug, who didn’t want to share his last name, find affordable clothing.

“Most shirts are $1. I've gotten many, many things," Doug said. "I'm a big man. It’s hard to find big man clothes but I have found some there."

Doug gets about three meals a week from the kitchen. He said he also donates $25 a month to Open Door, which can help the organization fund programs like emergency vouchers and the Birthday Bag program.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the food pantry has completely transitioned to drive-thru service. Davis said the pantry has been “seeing a lull” in food donations recently. Monetary donations can be made online or by check, and the website also has an Amazon wishlist with some of their most needed items. Davis said that although it is challenging, the work at the pantry is rewarding.

“One of my favorite parts about working here is just being able to help that one family even if it's that one family,” Davis said. “I try to tell my staff, 'Guys, I know it's hard, but if we walk away with helping one mom and one child, then we've done our job.'”

Richard Parker and his wife started volunteering at Open Door at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Two days a week turned into four days a week, and four years later Parker is serving on Open Door’s board.

“Well, one morning, when, during COVID, we were coming in listening to the radio station and the fella said, ‘If you're not essential, you don't need to go out.’" Parker said. "And I heard that and thought, 'Well, at least I'm essential today.'”

Much like Jackson and others have found at the kitchen, Parker has found his own community among the other volunteers at the food pantry.

“It's been good to get to know the various stories of the folks who come in and make the distribution the sharing of food possible here,” Parker said.

Open Door Kitchen operates 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.

The thrift shop is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the Food Pantry and Service Center is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The doors are open.

Olivia Mizelle is a student reporter at KBIA
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