Lawrence resident John Chafin walked down to the basement of St. John’s Catholic Church on Valentine’s Day of 1985 and ate the first meal served by LINK, the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen.
As LINK celebrates its 26th anniversary Monday, Chafin, 45, struggles to recall much about that first feast.
“That’s a long time,” Chafin said, laughing.
Chafin’s adopted brother, Dennis Abbott, was also one of only a handful of other guests at that first meal. The two have eaten at LINK, now housed in the basement of First Christian Church, nearly every day the kitchen has been open — Tuesdays, Thursdays, weekends and holidays — for more than two decades.
By the numbers, that’s more than 10,000 meals between them.
Chafin’s the quiet one, while Abbott spends the meal chatting with volunteers and other diners.
Abbott, who shares an east Lawrence home with Chafin, said he’s made a lot of friends at LINK over the years.
“Oh yeah, everybody,” said Abbott, who in addition to being a regular presence at LINK is one of downtown Lawrence’s most recognizable people. Most days Abbott — wearing colorful clothing and pushing a baby stroller — can be spotted visiting a variety of local businesses on Massachusetts Street.
But from 1 to 2 p.m., four days a week, Abbott can be found at LINK.
Greg Moore, LINK director, said the dining room at 221 W. 10th St. is a good place to catch up with friends, and he points out several groups of people that have sat together during lunch for years.
“It’s a real social thing,” said Moore of the atmosphere at LINK, which now serves about 150 people. “And really good food.”
Chafin agrees, but has a difficult time picking a favorite meal at LINK; he likes them all.
After 26 years, he has no plans on going anywhere else for lunch.
“I just keep on coming,” he said.