SPOKANE, Wash. - So often in life, we pass through on cruise control without taking the time to stop and really sit with each other. But that all changes when you walk through the door at one Spokane restaurant.
"They not only feed you but they take care of you," said Spokane resident Melinda Brown. "They listen to your story, they ask you questions, they take the time to get to know you as a human being."
Melinda has been coming to the Women and Children's Free Restaurant with her kids Kaden and Soraya three days a week for the last six months.
"This is really a gem," she said.
Melinda is a single mom and realizes how tough to cook a healthy meal for three people every night. When she comes here, though, she finds different meals every week -- for free.
"We get that restaurant feeling but also kind of a home feeling as well. It feels like a second home," she said. "It's helped us immensely. It gives me three days off from cooking, which you know, as a single mom, it's hard to cook a nutritious meal everyday."
Diners like Melinda are treated to a free meal three times a week in a setting that's unlike any food bank or soup kitchen.
"It's actually a dining with dignity experience, so diners show up, there's actually a hostess, they're seated, they're given a menu, which is that choice that so many people who are food insecure don't have in their lives," said board member Ev Hopkins.
Hopkins said from single moms like Melinda to the elderly, there's no average diner at the restaurant. The women and children who eat here are part of the 50,000 in the Spokane area who are food insecure.
"We have single mothers who are trying to stretch their budget. Maybe sometimes we see that more at the end of the month as well when they may have run out of funds," Hopkins said. "There's so much gratitude and so much appreciation for the fact that these women can sit down with their children and have a meal. There's no TV on, they can talk with each other."
The food served at the restaurant is often donated from Second Harvest, food banks, or donors who donate their leftover produce and protein. On tonight's menu? Roast beef, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts and salad.
"Oh their faces light up. They so enjoy being here. They give us little notes of 'thank you,'" said volunteer Sue Elmer.
An experience and environment like this is something many of us take for granted -- but not Melinda.
"They don't look at you for what you lack," she said. "They see you as a person and they treat you with dignity and respect."
Hopkins and Elmer said the restaurant wouldn't be able to serve families like Melinda's without help from the community. So on Tuesday, the Extreme Team will help set up a recognition wall to honor all the donors who have helped them along the way. Stay tuned for updates on their progress!
To learn more about volunteering, click here.
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