It’s a ‘privilege’ to serve Lawrence says LINK matriarch Katie Studebaker

Katie Studebaker is president of Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen, and she also started the food pantry operation at First Christian Church. Studebaker helps stock the pantry with other volunteers recently at the church.

What keeps Katie Studebaker up at night is not worries about Paul, her husband of 53 years; it is not her three daughters, or even her seven grandchildren.

What Studebaker thinks about at 3 in the morning is her work helping the less fortunate and how to maximize the limited resources she has at her disposal. It is a passion she has had for most of her adult life, but which began to occupy more and more of her time since retiring from the Lawrence School District in 2000.

“I have to stay busy,” she says. “I am not good playing cards.”

One way Studebaker stays busy is as president of the board of the Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen. And while most folks would be satisfied presiding over the agency which serves hundreds of hot meals to the hungry four times a week, Studebaker knows there is more that could be done.

“There are so many people who get lost and fall through the cracks,” she says. “Every month we see more families in LINK, and Family Promise is full every time.”

Two years ago Studebaker had a dream of starting a food pantry at her church. Her dream became a reality in June 2010 when one opened at First Christian Church.

“The first month we were open we served 61 people, ” says Studebaker. “This past January, 121 people came to the pantry.”

The pantry is open on the third Thursday of every month from 2 to 4 in the afternoon.

“We thought that would be a good time, closer to the end of the month,” she says. “People might be out of money and the extra help might be really helpful then.”

Studebaker will not take sole credit for the food pantry, saying that it was, and continues to be, a group effort. “There are many others who work on these projects,” she says.

That help comes not only from others in her church, but also from the Lawrence community. Last Christmas the pantry received $450 worth of grocery cards from Crown Toyota after it had conducted its annual food drive.

“We were able to buy butter and eggs and add them to the weekly grocery bags,” she says. “We figured it would be nice to have those things if the families wanted to do a little baking.”

Not long ago, Studebaker saw another need in the community. She heard about one of LINK guests who had moved into his own apartment. “He didn’t have anything to help set up his house, no toaster, no towels, nothing,” she says.

His predicament got her thinking about others who may be in the same position. “All those people who are in Family Promise or who are leaving the Shelter, what do they do?”

What they can do, thanks to Studebaker and others who donated items, is visit the Helping Hands Closet, also located at First Christian Church.

The donations rolled in, and what was once a classroom at the church, is now teeming with items to help individuals and families just starting out.

While the Helping Hands Closet is going strong, Studebaker is struggling to keep up with the growing demands being placed on the food pantry. “I feel like we are at a crossroads because we are running out of money,” she said.

We are thinking about ways for people to ‘adopt our food pantry,'” she says. “Maybe different levels of membership, one level would be for those who want to come to work, another level would be for those who want to donate food, and a level for those who want to donate money.”

Whatever happens, Studebaker is optimistic. “Lawrence is a very generous community. If there is a need, people will respond,” she says.

And it appears that as long as there are those who need her help, Studebaker will respond and continue to serve. “It is a privilege to serve people and to feel God’s love because that is what it is.”