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Lots of Flour and a Dash of Love

Twice a month, Karen Flowers walks into the kitchen at the Mission’s Men’s Campus and says, “Is the broth ready?”
Then she and her team of volunteers wash up, don aprons and hairnets, and pull around a giant cart of flour. They mix flour, seasoning, and a few other ingredients in the largest bowls they can find. They mix well and then cut the dough into strips, carefully dropping into the steaming vat of broth. They’re making dumplings­–55 gallons of them.
Fondly dubbed “The Dumpling Lady,” Karen never really planned to roll hundreds of her family’s favorite dumplings in an industrial rescue mission kitchen. It just…happened. “I was there volunteering one day when Sven, the Kitchen Manager, asked if anyone knew how to make dumplings. I didn’t respond because I figured someone else would know better. But my friend Joy volunteered me. So I went over and made dumplings. And I’ve done it ever since.”
For the past six years, Karen has served in the kitchen. She never would have imagined that a recipe her mother taught her would touch so many. “She’d be proud to know that her legacy is living on in this way,” Karen shares. “We put a dash of love in each batch. It’s our secret ingredient!
Beyond feeding hungry stomachs, these dumplings are the gateway to a conversation. Many of the men return to the serving line after eating and ask who handmade them. “They tell me that my dumplings remind them of recipes from their mothers or grandmothers,” Karen says. “’I haven’t had dumplings since my grandmother made them when I was a child,’ one man recently told me. In these moments, I am touched.”
Moments like those remind Karen and her fellow volunteers that the individuals they serve are not so different than them. They have families, they grew up somewhere, and they may have had similar struggles. Some of the conversations Karen has with the men have her flashbacking to her own childhood. “I grew up on a farm with six siblings. We were poor, but we didn’t know it. We always had food and we always had clothes. By the grace of God we were always provided for. These men didn’t ask to be in this position. I could be just like them if my circumstances had been slightly different.”
Karen’s heart of service touches hundreds each time she is in our kitchen. Her cooking skills directly impact the lives of the homeless population in Nashville. Thanks to volunteers like her, who step up and use their talents to help others, Nashville Rescue Mission is able to serve nearly 2,000 meals each day. Would you like to serve alongside volunteers like Karen? Click the button below to get started!

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