April 18, 2023

Serving at The Kearney Center

St. John’s hands-on relationship with Tallahassee’s Homeless Shelter began in 2014, supporting the Shelter’s existing food program, a major outreach initiative made possible by a team of community volunteers, churches, and civic groups that regularly prepared meals. At that time, the facility was only able to provide individuals with overnight shelter and three meals per day. St. John’s parishioners Mary Lee Robertson and Susan Jones helped bring St. John’s into the picture, recruiting parishioners to serve meals during the Shelter’s final months in its overflowing Tennessee Street location.

In 2015, as The Kearney Center’s new location was opening, the very first dinner meal was prepared in the St. John’s church kitchen and served by our clergy and volunteers. And now, nearly 10 years later, The Kearney Center is able to offer daily meals, shelter, and comprehensive emergency services out of their Pensacola Street location, thanks to partnerships with community organizations like St. John’s. Read on for how YOU can get involved…



Meal Service: St. John’s has grown from providing volunteers to prepare and serve periodic meals to coordinating meal service three or four times monthly (pre-pandemic) and on holidays like Thanksgiving. The St. John’s crew was fortunate to be volunteering when The Kearney Center’s millionth meal was served in July 2019. And, for 10 years, St. John’s has sent groups of middle and high schoolers to The Kearney Center to assist during Youth B.E.A.T. Week.

Baked Good Donations: There’s also an auxiliary team of drivers that delivers donated baked goods from local businesses to The Kearney Center. We lovingly call these our once or twice weekly “Bun Runs,” shuttling leftovers from Tasty Pastry Bakery and Au Péché Mignon Bakery to The Kearney Center. According to Dennis Howard, one of nearly a dozen parishioners who regularly handle these deliveries, “we have diverted tons and tons of quality baked goods from the landfill and made it available to appreciative guests at the Kearney Center.”

Pandemic PB&J Effort: During the pandemic, St. John’s partnered with The Kearney Center to bridge an unavoidable gap in meal service. Thanks to John Allen – who coordinated a team of dedicated St. John’s parishioners and friends – more than 8,000 prepared PB&J sandwiches were distributed to Kearney Center residents in temporary housing during the first year of the pandemic.


St. John’s currently serves twice a month at The Kearney Center. We would love to welcome some additional volunteers. No prior experience is necessary; youth volunteers are even encouraged to come help. St. John’s parishioners serve meals, fill beverage cups, distribute cutlery, bus tables, and get to know the guests. Volunteers are asked to arrive 30-40 minutes before mealtimes; closed-toed shoes and head coverings (hats) are required. Simply email the dinner coordinator in advance to let us know you’re coming!

4th Tuesday Dinner
Susan Jones, coordinator

4th Thursday Dinner
Nancy Brand, coordinator


Parishioner Nancy Brand has been volunteering at The Kearney Center since she saw a plea for volunteers in the Chimes about six years ago. She first served with older, retired parishioners, but some of our loyal volunteers were unable to return following the pandemic. Nancy has recruited new volunteers over the year, including many former teaching colleagues. One woman, and her teenage son, came on board four years ago and continue to volunteer with St. John’s to this day.

Nancy would love to see our parish youth become more involved with The Kearney Center ministry. She says, “When they are serving, we notice a more positive attitude among the clients as they pass through the dining room. There is no special training required – just a servant’s heart!”

St. John’s parishioner Mary Lee Robertson has been volunteering monthly at The Kearney Center since the doors opened in 2015. She says this opportunity has allowed her to become friends with her fellow St. John’s volunteers, and her life has been enriched by serving and getting to know the clients as well as the staff.

“I have known clients who have gone back to school, gotten jobs, and received treatment for addiction. I have also mourned those who have died,” said Mary Lee. “Being a volunteer at The Kearney Center is more than dishing up food or handing out plates … each person has his or her own story.”

“God moves people in and out of each other’s lives, and each leaves his mark on the other. You find that you are made up of bits and pieces of all who ever touched your life, and you are better for it.”

Lois Cheney

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