The following post was written by guest blogger, Julia Guarino.
Recently, we at Herban Lifestyle had the privilege of discovering an amazing place in one of DC’s upscale neighborhoods – Miriam’s Kitchen. Although the dining room is on a lower level, the space is bright, with fresh flowers on the tables, colorful art and poetry decorating the walls, and a coffee bar, where a delicious homemade breakfast (including delicacies such as freshly baked muffins, smoked salmon and fresh fruit) is served Monday through Friday, and lunch on Wednesdays – all for free.
You could call Miriam’s Kitchen a soup kitchen, but it is much more than that. Every day after breakfast is served, the guests are invited to participate in the “after breakfast program,” where they can receive traditional services such as clothing, medical care, free legal counseling, professional case management, see a licensed psychiatrist once a week, and set up a P.O. Box and personal voicemail box. However, Miriam’s additionally offers a variety of therapeutic workshops that go beyond the traditional; guests can participate in art-therapy, creative writing groups, knitting, pottery, yoga, geography classes, a guest-led advocacy group and more. And once a month, guests can get manicures and facials on “spa day”!
As Ashley, the Volunteer and Development Coordinator explained, Miriam’s Kitchen is a safe place – where guests are treated as equals, and are expected to do so for one another and the volunteers as well. Miriam’s tries to have a “Starbucks feel,” she explains; warm and welcoming, and a little bit of a treat. This is the only safe place many of the guests have, after all; the only place they have been able to relax in years. And although Miriam’s Kitchen’s ultimate goal for their guests is to get them into housing, they celebrate every little accomplishment. As Ashley explained, from offering an indoor a meal for the first time perhaps in years, to helping them finally find an apartment, Miriam’s supports its guests through every step, and meets them where they are right now.
On a recent visit to Miriam’s Kitchen, that basic respect for each individual was palpable in the homey atmosphere. Not only were the guests enjoying themselves, but the entire staff, mostly volunteer, were too. It is a truly unique place, successful in myriad measurable as well as immeasurable ways.
If you are interested in learning more about Miriam’s kitchen, visit them on the web at: http://www.miriamskitchen.org, follow them on Twitter: @miriamskitchen, or view a short video. Miriam’s Kitchen is always looking for donations and volunteers!