By TC Klusman
Every Thursday behind Cable Baptist Church in downtown Louisville on Wenzel Street, a peculiar event occurs: hungry people line up to be waited on hand and foot. For free. What is more peculiar? Volunteers have been doing this every week for the past ten years.
Lost Sheep Ministries, also affiliated with The Avenue Church in Cardinal Towne, has been feeding the homeless for years. Every Thursday between 6:30-7 p.m. homeless people line the alley looking for a hot meal. In the summer the people can be served in the alley behind the church and enjoy the outdoors, but in the winter months the meals are served inside and a worship service immediately follows the meal.
This is not the usual soup kitchen, as the menu varies every week. Instead of lining up to get served, the meals and drinks are actually brought to the people in need, much like a traditional dine-in restaurant.
“They get that everywhere,” says Norm Minnick, one of the founders of Lost Sheep Ministries, talking about the traditional soup kitchen lines, “We felt it would be nice to get them off their feet.”
The meal is not the only way the ministry helps the people who come to it for aid. Diane, a regular volunteer on Thursdays, said many of the homeless need “socks, underwear and blankets, and if we can, give them coats or maybe a backpack.”
Lost Sheep will actually give the homeless these supplies (if they have it) simply by the individual filling out a request form. Volunteers for the organization split duties each night, and one group serves the food while the others fill out the request forms and place the bags in rows according to table.
The gift bag does not cost the person a dime, but they have to earn it. Lost Sheep provides a short gospel service that the participants must listen to in order to receive their requests. Once the message has been delivered, the volunteers go to each table and deliver the bag filled with the requested items to the individual.
Lost Sheep Ministries will reach anywhere from 50-160 men, women, and occasionally children, every Thursday night. It relies on donations to buy the food and individual donations of clothes, toiletries, and blankets to give to the people in need.
After asking Minnick how he gets the word out that there is a hot meal in this area he said after being in this area for ten years, they just know that on Thursdays this is where they come for a warm dinner. “We got on the soup kitchen circuit,” he said. One major reason for the organizations success and longevity is the homeless prefer this type of treatment as opposed to going to a traditional shelter where they may have their possessions stolen.
Much of the support for the service comes from local churches in the area and other missional groups that want to help support the homeless.
After asking Minnick why he did started this organization, he replied, “We can all end up at that table real quick. It doesn’t take much. Just one or two wrong turns and there you are.”
As of a 2014 census taken by the Coalition for the Homeless, Louisville has approximately nine thousand homeless individuals living on the streets.
Any additional information about Lost Sheep Ministries can be found at http://lostsheepoflouisville.org/.