By Dylan Deprey
There was no doubt that Ms. Monique Bateman was dedicated to feeding her neighborhood.
While barbecuing on her front porch for the next day, a meal was already prepared for the line of people that would be waiting outside the Marjani House (34th and Locust) and three other locations later that evening.
Some days, the need was so great that tomorrow’s meal became today’s meal. Yet, she still scrambled together a dinner for the next day.
From running around to food pantries, accepting local donations and forking over her own cash, Bateman and the Marjani House’s main goal is to keep the neighborhood fed and in good spirits.
Her living room was sectioned off by holidays. Two six-foot tables had goodie bags and used costumes to hand out to children in her area for Halloween. She had a small stash of hats, gloves and canned goods growing in the other corner for a holiday season giveaway. There was also a box of Christmas lights and even a box of valentines, but the center was dedicated strictly for Turkey Day.
Last year the Marjani House donated 20 Thanksgiving baskets and fed around 120 people. This year, Bateman is extending her reach even farther for the Marjani House’s 2nd Annual Community Meal on Nov. 22.
“I want to have a total of 45 turkeys and 45 hams to give out because that’s how we eat at my house,” Bateman said. “Then I’m looking to cook another 15 and serve it outside.”
Bateman said she looked forward to cooking the entire meal like she had done in years past, but finding the food in time would be the more difficult part.
“Last year, most of the food was donated at once, and I didn’t have to look for it on my own,” Bateman said. “I’m not worried about cooking it, I just want to make sure we can get it all in.”
She has reached out to a local agency, and has already stocked 3 turkeys, 3 hams and small piles of paper ware, utensils, sides, seasonings and desserts. Some of it was donations, and others was whatever she could catch on sale.
“I really don’t wait to until the last minute for this, so I’ll be going door-to-door and reaching out to businesses,” Bateman said.
She is also asking the community to donate whatever they can.
“’What would you want to eat with your family on Thanksgiving?’ That is what I would want you to donate,” Bateman said.
Though Bateman has a lot of work leading up to the big dinner, she will also be outside feeding her community a hot meal every Monday through Friday.
“I have enough food where I can make you feel at home because sometimes a soup kitchen isn’t enough,” Bateman said. “I’m trying to guarantee people that if they come out and patronize the line and make the walk, it’s worth it.”
Donations will be accepted until November 21 by 3 p.m. and can be ropped off at 2878 N. 34th St.
The Marjani House 2nd Annual Free Community Meal is scheduled for Nov. 22 at 11:30 a.m. until the food is gone.